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Deer ‘birth control’ is waste of time and money

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Updated Aug 14, 2013 at 8:29 PM

A small town in upstate New York plans to spend $30,000 on birth control for deer.

The plan is to trap does, inoculate them with contraceptives, and release them. The procedure won’t permanently sterilize the does, only render them infertile for perhaps two years.

After that, they will again start producing fawns -- often twins and sometimes triplets. Each of those female fawns will be capable of breeding and producing off-spring by the following year.

Of course all the does in a given area can’t be trapped and inoculated, which means they will continue to produce fawns. Additional fertile does will constantly move in and out of the area, adding to the offspring.

In other words, it won’t work.

Similar “birth control” programs for deer have been tried before, and after spending considerable time and public funds, the deer remain as thick as ever.

There’s only two ways to thin a deer herd: by hunting or by Mother Nature.

In the absence of hunting, a herd will gradually over-populate to the point that there won’t be sufficient food to sustain their numbers. At that point Mother Nature takes over and reduces the herd through starvation and disease. Excess deer die off, and malnourished does become temporarily infertile.

That’s nature’s grim version of birth control.

Animal-rights activists have tried trapping some of the over-populated deer and transporting them to other areas. It’s expensive and doesn’t solve the problem. The remaining deer quickly re-populate, joined by other deer that move into the area, attracted by the food/habitat that resulted in the original overpopulation.

What is particularly disconcerting about the misguided New York deer-contraceptive campaign is that it is endorsed by the Humane Society, which has joined hands with the extremist Defense of Animals group.

The Humane Society has long tip-toed around the issue of hunting. Although it tries to maintain a low profile on the touchy subject, its official position – if pressed – is that it is opposed to “sport hunting.”

Not all of its members share that anti-hunting sentiment, of course. Some of its supporters hunt and fish, and some are neutral on the issue.

Nobody disputes the fact that the Humane Society does some good work, especially in the area of domestic animals. But when it aligns itself with extremist anti-hunting groups it is treading on thin ice.

The nonsensical “deer-contraception” plan has drawn attention to the Humane Society’s alliance with radical anti-hunting groups. It would be wise to re-think its support of such associations.

Meanwhile in the New York community of Hastings-on-Hudson, one gardener complains that the over-populated deer have eaten “everything down to the ground – shrubs, flowers, even holly bushes.”

One city executive admitted the problem is severe, but “for me the idea is to intervene in the lives of deer as little as possible … we should avoid killing things that live in our neighborhood.”

It’s a classic example of good people with good intentions coming up with a bad plan.

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