Are Deer Contraceptives Expensive?

This is the 12th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 12: “Contraceptives are expensive ($600-800/doe) and only work when the deer population is isolated and does not have an opportunity to migrate in or out of a given area. Sterilization is expensive ($800-1,000/doe) and is currently not legal in North Carolina.” [page 43]

We’re not sure how the Task Force came up with this estimate, but it throws into question the validity of their other estimates.

The current state-of-the-art birth control for deer is immuno-contraception using PZP (porcine zona pellucida), a protein that occurs naturally in pig ovaries. The Humane Society of the United States and others are conducting research to develop a synthetic form of PZP. In 2006, the cost of PZP vaccine was between $10 and $25 per dose “and is constantly being reduced as production becomes more efficient.”

The real cost, of course, is in the labor involved in administering the contraceptives, which is typically done via dart. If the hunters in this community really cared about the environment and the health of the deer, they would volunteer to administer the immuno-contraceptive darts.

However, because the task force has provided no scientific evidence that the deer are overpopulated, that their numbers need to be reduced, or that it is even possible to reduce their numbers, given that Carrboro is not an island, Carrboro should wait until those facts are established before implementing any population control methods.

We couldn’t find any references for deer sterilization being illegal in North Carolina; however, we do know that Bald Head Island received permission from the state for a deer sterilization program. As mentioned previously, Carrboro is not an island, and there is no evidence that a deer sterilization program would work in Carrboro.