The days of some deer in Rock Creek Park in the District appear to be dwindling to a mere handful.

After much discussion and debate — and after a lawsuit aimed at stopping the operation proved unavailing — U.S. Agriculture Department sharpshooters were to begin targeting the park dwellers Wednesday night, the start of what authorities said would be three nights of carefully controlled hunting.

A half-dozen protesters at the park Wednesday night urged contraception rather than gunfire.

To try to ensure people’s safety, several roads in the park will be closed between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on the nights of the hunt ending Saturday morning, officials said. They are: Beach Drive north of Broad Branch Road, Ross Drive, Wise Road, Grant Road, Sherrill Drive, Joyce Road, Morrow Drive and Bingham Drive NW.

According to the government, the sharpshooters, under the Park Service and in coordination with U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement, will help carry out a three-year plan for “active herd reduction,” aimed at reducing deer density in the park from more than 70 per square mile to 15 to 20.

After achieving that, authorities said that they will work to maintain a sustainable population within the four-square-mile park, widely regarded as a city jewel.

The Park Service said an overabundance of white-tailed deer over the past 20 years has had a negative impact.

Officials cited the consumption of “too many tree seedlings,” preventing proper regeneration of the forest.

The aim is to improve the park’s health and diversity and to support native vegetation and other wildlife, officials said.