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A Surprisingly Useful Tool for Deer Management?

October 2, 2014

The Sept. 29 Washington Post Health and Science article by Jackson Landers entitled “Trying to limit the number of deer with surprising results,” is misleading. I was a reviewer on the Cornell publication and have been in the wildlife discipline for 27 years. Since 2009, White Buffalo Inc. has conducted over 500 ovariectomies and has managed the cost down to ~$500/deer. On study sites, we’ve seen reductions of up to 30% in Year 1.  It dismays me to see an article like this when sterilization is a tool we hope to use in suburban environments where lethal methods are neither feasible or practical, or as in Cornell’s case, used in conjunction with lethal methods to more rapidly reduce populations.  The article mentions that birth rate and doe numbers declined. There were additional bucks, but in addition to multiple estrus cycles attracting bucks, the subsequent camera surveys were conducted over bait post-rut and in a refuge surrounded by hunting. These details alone would concentrate bucks and inflate the estimate. It is likely that most males don’t reside year-round on campus, so the documented decline in females actually was successful.  The "effectiveness" of the subsequent hunting harvest on campus was emphasized, but if they had not sterilized the females, that spring’s new fawns would have negated the 45% harvest. It is critical that we have every tool available to manage over abundant deer populations in developed areas and not prematurely dismiss a potentially viable technique.




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