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Application of contraception for the control of suburban populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) has been much debated, but few data are available on field applications and even fewer on population effects. Between 1993 and 1997, 74-164 individually known female deer living on Fire Island, New York, USA, were treated remotely with an initial shot of 65 microg porcine zona pellucida (PZP) in Freund's complete adjuvant followed by booster injections of 65 microg PZP in Freund's incomplete adjuvant. Starting in 1996, progressively increasing numbers of deer were treated with vaccinating/marking darts. Estimates of population density and composition, using distance sampling methods, began in 1995 in selected portions of the study area. Between 1993 and 1997, fawning rates among individually known, treated adult females decreased by 78.9% from pretreatment rates. Population density in the most heavily treated area increased by 11% per year from 1995 to March 1998 and then decreased at 23% per year to October 2000. In 1999-2000 surveys, fawns comprised 13-14% of the total population in the most heavily treated area, versus 16-33% in nearby untreated areas. These results show that PZP can be delivered effectively to sufficient deer to affect population density and composition in some environments, but that technical and logistical improvements are needed before contraception can be used widely to manage suburban deer populations.
Additional Publication Details
Field testing of immunocontraception on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Fire Island National Seashore, New York, USA