Humane solutions to move forward: Immunocontraception for wild animals
Despite its solid scientific and ethical foundation of immunocontraception such as Porcine zona pellucida (PZP) or GonaCon, the pro-hunting community is quick to point out reasons as to why implementation of this humane solution is not feasible. Common objections usually allege high costs, logistic hurdles such as requiring repeat application and unproven effectiveness have not made these ready to use at a population management level, or in an open environment.
According to Dr. Kirkpatrick—one of the leading scientists with the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT,—these objections are uninformed and show an ignorance of the subject. Firstly, costs can be variable and offset in several ways. If the community wants to use trained volunteers, or already salaried employees, the cost is significantly reduced. If it wants to pay someone $60,000 a year to do the work it will cost a lot. Published cost estimates based on other urban deer projects range from $64/deer with remote treatments to close to $1,000/deer if trapping is involved.
Secondly, the only “logistical hurdles” are darting every deer possible at every opportunity. While some might see this as a “hurdle”, it has worked well elsewhere (the successful management of deer by immunocontraception is in the published scientific literature). Trapping deer is a logistical hurdle but that is not a recommended approach when remote treatments have already proved successful.
At present there are at least 32 published papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals attesting to the safety and effectiveness of the Porcine zona pellucida (PZP) vaccine alone in cervids (deer family), at both the individual and population level, with two more to appear in the coming year. GonaCon, another contraceptive developed by USDA just for deer, has an equally large published record. For more information, The Science and Conservation Centers.