Jennifer Fenderbosch has been in communication with Tufts University and the Medical College of Ohio, who are studying the effects of PZP, a non-hormonal birth control dart for wild animals.
“The universities are interested in investigating the possibility of a long term birth control study of the white tailed deer in Avon Lake,” Fenderbosch said in a press release. “Dr. Turner has tentatively agreed to tour Avon Lake in late April or May to determine if the geography of Avon Lake fits the test protocol.”
Fenderbosch has taken the lead in the city on addressing an overpopulation of deer problem. Recently, the city began reviewing the possibility of amending Avon Lake’s ordinances to to cull the herd, estimated by a spotlight count at 250.
PZP is similar to an allergy shot. It is made with a pig protein that is injected into the hip muscle of a white tailed deer with a retrievable dart. The deer's immunity system responds by thickening and changing the shape of the membrane that surrounds the egg prohibiting sperm from penetrating; thus, preventing conception.
Since PZP is not a hormone, "it does not affect deer behavior, is not retained in the body, and does not effect future fawns once it is no longer used,” the release said.
The possibility of using PZP in Avon Lake is not yet certain.
“Over the next eight weeks we will learn if PZP can be considered as a white-tailed deer management tool in Avon Lake,” Fenderbosch said. “If Avon Lake's geography is conducive for a long term study, it still needs the written approval of ODNR's Division of Wildlife prior to proceeding."
If this study moves forward it would only be the second time that PZP has been studied as a white tailed deer management tool in Ohio, Fenderbosch said.
Fenderbosch added that there still needs to be significant discussion on the issue including the accessibility to the deer for darting and the effectiveness of birth control on free range deer knowing that some young deer move in and out of the area in search of their home range.
“Some have taken the approach that the herd size needs to be reduced prior to darting with birth control as in http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/urbandeer07.pdf,” Fenderbosch said. “There is the question about how and who will administer the dart if it is decided that the City would fit the study protocol. There is the question about on whose land will the deer be darted. Then of course there is the question about how will it be funded.
“In other locations a number of nonprofit organizations including the Humane Society of the United States helped to fund the studies.”
In Ohio PZP has only been approved and was used in one study by the Toledo University's Medical College of Ohio from 1995 - 1997 in Sharon Woods located north of Columbus. The study was challenged by accessibility to the deer and keeping track of the deer that were darted for long-term post inoculation studies.
How the shots work
According to a 2010 Tuft’s University Cumming’s School of Veterinary Medicine handout, immunocontraceptive vaccines activate the immune system to block a crucial aspect of reproduction. The porcine zona pellucida (PZP) vaccine causes female deer to produce antibodies that bind to the protein envelope surrounding the egg, blocking fertilization.
PZP, first used as a contraceptive in the 1979s, is not a hormone and does not affect other body processes.
Since Tuft’s veterinary program first began treating deer on Fire Island in New York in 1993, nearly 2000 deer have been treated at field sites in seven states. The university’s studies have found PZP typically reduces pregnancy rates by 80-90 percent.
The handout says the cost to treat one deer varied in different studies from $79 per deer (Fire Island National Seashore, NY) to $513 (including initial capture and treatment) Fripp Island, SC. Treating a herd of 300 does would cost approximately $40,000 over two years.