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Culling deer ineffective conservationists say, so let's try birth control

Deer become friendly in residential areas
Deer become friendly in residential areas
Jean Williams

Over population of deer in residential areas continues to be a problem in many regions across the country, with few positive options that bode well for bucks, does and fawns.

Deer become problematic when they over-browse areas, including yards, decorative trees, shrubs and flowers, while contributing to deer/car collisions and concerns about disease.

However, viewing wildlife like innocent, mellow deer is very pleasurable for some people who enjoy taking pictures and watching them, which often means increased income for eco-tourism businesses and National Parks.

Advances in sterilization and vaccines are promising, while culling programs remain expensive, inhumane and primarily ineffective.

For example, the city of Solon, Ohio, spent almost $1 million annually of tax payer money to cull approximately 300 deer, according to a 2012 petition against the practice, which had city residents at odds with each other on continuing the futile practice or finding more humane effectual solutions.

One reason culling is ineffective is that “Deer also have the biological ability to regenerate themselves under hunted conditions, meaning that doe will often attempt to reproduce in numbers equivalent to that of the community death toll,” reads part of a document against deer culling in Solon.

The same thing happens with other animal species, like wolves, when they are under threat of a population decrease.

Residents of Solon also complained the US Wildlife Service was indiscriminate in gunning down a high number of bucks, when culling should have been does-only, calling it blood-lusting and irresponsible.

Bow-hunting has also been used by municipalities for a solution to manage deer populations, which too often resulted in animals being left to suffer inhumane deaths from festering wounds.

Recently, the Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS, embarked on birth control programs that include surgical sterilization and contraceptive vaccines detailed in the group’s All Animals May/June edition.

Karen E. Lange wrote this about the procedures:

After decades of research, scientists and animal advocates are readying nonlethal methods for widespread adoption: Surgical sterilization of does is one. Vaccinations with the contraceptive PZP, developed over two decades with the help of The HSUS, is another. Both methods are considered experimental, meaning those who want to use them must apply to states for permission. But both methods are gaining acceptance. Already, they are being offered to communities on eastern Long Island. Maryland, Virginia, California, and New York granted their first-ever permits for surgical sterilization during the last three years. And this year, The HSUS is applying for EPA approval of PZP use in deer. Meanwhile, a crucial test of PZP is underway in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, the first place where it is being used to reduce a free-roaming population of deer in an open community, versus at a fenced site or on an island.

“If it does work there, it probably will work in a lot of other places,” said Tufts University professor Allen Rutberg, a former HSUS staffer who as one of the leading researchers on PZP gets calls every week from those interested in using the vaccine.

Saving Bambie may be a difficult and slow process, but the concept of humane options is becoming increasingly popular in communities where decades of development have crowded wildlife causing encroachment and more human/animal conflicts.

With the help of organizations like HSUS

and hundreds of volunteers across the nation, birth control could eventually be a dominate solution over killing defenseless animals for no other reason than they exist in a world dominated by man.