Will the deer of Essex County be put on birth control instead of being shot? A campaign headed by the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey — which has strongly objected to the use of hunting as a form of deer population control — says that they have cleared the way for the use of a more humane alternative, the immunocontraceptive Gona-Con.
The group pushed for the final administrative step to be completed, making NJ the second state in the country to officially “register” the product. “It still has to be approved by the NJ Division of Fish, Game & Wildlife, but it’s a good start,” said activist Carol Rivielle. “We’re hoping that the County Executive will decide to use this non-lethal method in South Mountain Reservation, Eagle Rock Reservation and Hilltop to replace the “annual” deer hunts.”
Rivielle says that based on her analysis of OPRA requests, the county hunts have cost taxpayers approximately $500,000 over the past four years. She explained that, in addition to being kinder and gentler, Gona-Con is cheaper. According to Rivielle, White Buffalo, Inc. (a leading expert in controlling the population of white-tailed deer in suburban communities and city parks) have begun to use Gona-Con experimentally, and claims that it would be a less expensive alternative, when all the costs of the hunt are factored in. She claims that the cost of the hunters’ lunches is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.
The feasibility of the method, however, is still unclear to many experts. On their web site, White Buffalo says this about fertility control methods:
Perceived to be the ideal solution, fertility control agents are currently not available for managing overabundant deer populations. All field studies are strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and further research is required to assess the feasibility and practicality of using contraceptives. Fertility control agents exist that can prevent reproduction in individual deer. However, the need for repeated administration and limited delivery technologies significantly restrict the population size that can be experimentally manipulated. Data collected to date (cost of manpower and materials (~$600 – $1,000/per doe treated), adequate number of does accessed) suggests that use of contraceptives will be limited to small insular herds.
County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s spokesperson said that the issue of using Gona-Con as an alternative to hunting is being discussed with the Deer Management department. We’ll post their response when we hear from them.