Deer Management at Buck Manager



Urban Deer Management and Contraception for White-tailed Deer


Much of what we discuss on this site concerns managing white-tailed deer populations for optimal health, which leads to increased fawn survival and improve antler growth. That’s great for hunters and sustainable, rural deer herds, but people living in suburban areas that chock-full with overabundant deer have a completely different perspective when it comes to whitetail management—and the number one objective there is to decrease the deer population. It’s kind of interesting that herd reduction is the common prescription for two goals that are just about 180 degrees from one another.

A lot of the people that live in suburbs are a bit different than the folks that live out in the country. I understand that plenty of deer hunters find themselves living in the ‘burbs, but it’s important to realize that only about 7 percent of the US population actually hunts. That means the overwhelming majority of Americans, which could be you or the bulk of your neighbors, do not. Nothing wrong with that (because there is already a lot of competition for hunting lands), but since we are in America everyone gets to have their say, right or wrong. Case in point: Birth control for a free-ranging deer herd.

Suburban Deer Management: Contraception and Birth Control Do Not Work

Source: “My decision to pursue this is ultimately a practical one. If it works, we will finally have accomplished what other communities have failed to do and found a non-lethal approach to the deer issue that would work in a dense village like ours,” Swiderski said.

Swiderski said the five-year study, which also involves the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Mass., will cost the village about $10,000 this year and possibly less next year.

Researchers hope to treat 60 deer this year and during the next two winters, and to continue to monitor them. Captured does — tranquilized first with a drug-filled dart — will have a numbered ear tag attached, blood drawn for a pregnancy test and an initial vaccine dose. Known as PZP, the vaccine uses a doe’s immune system to stop her eggs from being fertilized.

But after about a week of looking for deer, Naugle and Grams had tagged and treated just one. They can fire at deer no more than 20 yards away with their air-powered rifles, and they are still learning where the animals spend their days.

“It’s a slow process. But next year, by the time we come back here, we’ll have everything figured out,” Naugle said.

To get to the point, contraception does not work on free-ranging white-tailed deer herds. It barely works on captive deer herds because of either the inability to get an appropriate dose of birth control to the deer on a daily basis or because enough of the deer can not be “treated” within a short enough period of time (i.e. more females are added annually). In this case, I’m going to have to claim insanity for this town because the most telling words in the entire article were these, “If it works, we will finally have accomplished what other communities have failed to do…”

It’s a shame to throw away good money. If anyone who reads this lives in an area with overabundant deer, whether you are a community leader looking to control the deer population or now simply an informed citizen, stand up and let your neighbors know that contraception for deer does not work unless you are willing to build a deer-retardant fence that is at least 8-feet tall around the problem area, then drastically reduce the population through either deer hunting or trapping, and then maybe there is at least a chance that some type of birth control can work.

If all of that is not an option, then the most cost-effective way to control suburban deer populations is through regulated hunting. Unless you have unlimited resources, hunters are your only hope. Be nice to them.