Cumberland Times-News

April 19, 2014

No Bambi for you, Mrs. Doe

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— Some people want so badly for deer birth control to work that they actually think it will, even on wild populations.

I wish I had a couple bridges to sell.

A week ago on the Outdoors page we ran the deer there do what deer  everywhere do. They eat the easiest food available such as gardens and ornamental plantings. They walk in front of moving cars. They give ticks and  parasites a place to live.

So, in Hastings-on-Hudson, instead of having hunts for the deer or paying some deer-shooting company such as White Buffalo to terminate the ungulates, Mayor Peter Swiderski and his citizens are trying to keep the animals from having deer babies.

Enter the Humane Society of the United States toting air guns loaded with tranquil- izing drugs and syringes filled with contra- ceptives.

In an Associated Press article about the month-long effort that took place this March, the mayor said eight does were tranquilized, tagged and injected with the birth control drug.

The goal had been to inject up to 50 female deer. The mayor said they will give it another go next year, hoping for better results.

The project is the first birth-control study of a free-roaming deer population in an open, suburban area in the U.S.

I was not able to determine if the Vatican was consulted before the project’s onset.

The AP spoke with Stephanie Boyles Grif- fin, a senior director for HSUS, who said that with more time and experience, next winter should go better. She said success could mean the program will work all over the country.

“This technology was designed to help communities like Hastings-on-Hudson manage their deer populations in a way that is beneficial to everyone, including the deer,” Griffin said.

It’s important, I believe, to note Griffin’s involvement. She is not just another HSUS employee, but also a member of the Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission, the citizen group that advises the state’s Wildlife & Heritage Service about managing wildlife.

I like to keep hunters aware that the WAC includes someone who opposes hunting.

The Wildlife & Heritage Service, of course, is funded by the sale of hunting licenses.

The wildlife agency, a few years ago, approved the use of GonaCon.

GonaCon is a deer birth control chemical that has the approval of the U.S. Environ- mental Protection Agency. So that makes it OK to stick the stuff in a female deer in an effort to keep her from having baby deers. These Bambi creatures have a nasty way of eating expensive ornamental plants and denting Lexus grills in Suburbiana, Md.

I’m guessing the name, GonaCon, could be loosely translated into Gonads-Not; the ‘gona’ part deriving from gonads and ‘con’ meaning contrary or ain't gonna happen. But what do I know?

That's a good question, actually.

I know this. Our state wildlife agency is not about to spend up to $1,000 of hunting license revenue or Pittman-Robertson kick- back funds per deer to keep the venison herds controlled. A hunter will continue to be the No. 1 player in the thinning-drag- ging-eating of Maryland’s bucks and does.

WHS Director Paul Peditto says for a female deer’s reproductive capabilities to be altered she must be shot with a tranquilizer dart, captured, injected by hand with GonaCon and tagged twice, once to identify her for future injections and another to warn that, for a while anyway, the meat shouldn't be consumed by humans.

I’m thinking that the consumption part wouldn’t be a problem in Hastings-on-Hud- son. Just saying.

The contraceptive works 80 percent of the time, but a year later there is an even greater chance the doe will become preg- nant if the costly process is not repeated.

All of this adds up to not only substantial use of manpower, but of money. Peditto estimates the cost per deer can reach up to $1K. This kind of thing could only be applied in an enclosed or otherwise restricted and small area where the deer can’t escape and even then the state won’t pay for it.

Any use of GonaCon in Maryland would be paid for by other sources, say a home- owners association whose million-dollar dwellings and the deer that are eating orna- mental pants are in an enclosed setting.

Maryland will continue to rely on another form of deer family planning that is more effective and much less expensive — hunting  seasons.

Contact  Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at