Birth Control Shots for Deer Being Explored in Avon Lake

Shot could prevent pregnancy and result in long-term reduction.

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.

Jennifer Fenderbosch April 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Rich, ODNR stated that it will not approve of birth control for white tailed deer except if it is carried out in a University study. The first step is for the area to be assessed as to whether the City even falls into the study protocol qualifications. As Lori mentioned in the article, ODNR did approve pzp in a 3 year university study in Sharon Woods.
Jennifer Fenderbosch April 02, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Deer typically stay in their home range except some of the young bucks that explore to find their new home range after being challenged by an older buck. Sometimes young females stray out of the home range; however, they are more likely to stay within their home range. No one wants to eleminate the entire herd of deer. When the darts inject the deer, they leave a dye stain on the hip to indicate the deer has been inoculated. In some studies, they inoculate twice the first year and then once subsequent years.
Robert Slater April 02, 2012 at 06:06 PM
My understanding is that the failure of the Sharon Woods study has a lot to do with the ODNR's current policy.
Lisa Fields April 02, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I can guarantee that this program, should it go forward, will be deemed a failure as well. The Metroparks claimed their contraception program was a failure however, former Chief of Natural Resournces, Dan Petit, stated that it was working. Leading scientist with PZP, Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, said that all the deer do not have to be innoculated for the program to be successful. Bottom line, any and all alternative methods for co-existing with deer is shot down by ODNR who have full control of our wildlife. OH citizens should consider that we have not even ONE representative on the OH Wildlife Council or ODNR who is not a hunter or believes the only thing to do is kill. The number of hunters is a tiny percent of the population so why are they dictating to the majority. Their word is NOT gospel. They're full of hot air, propaganda, deception and a kill-only, might is right mentality. Time to put the ODNR out of business or bring them into this century! Enough is enough.
Ginger Kaliszewski April 03, 2012 at 12:22 AM


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