New Jersey approves deer contraceptive
New deer contraceptive, costing as much as $1,000 per deer, is widely dismissed as impractical and inefficient.
Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 19:40
GROWING PROBLEM: A burgeoning deer population causing damage all over the state has officials looking for new solutions, now including a controversial contraception drug. (Photo: nosha/Flickr)
As anybody from New Jersey can tell you, the sight of a deer on the side of the road is a familiar one. Whether it's by eating expensive flowers or crops or scampering onto roadways and causing car accidents, however, a burgeoning deer population is causing New Jersey a lot of expensive problems. Often, local officials organize "hunts" with the clear objective of reducing the deer population. However, even the hunts do not seem to be making a dent in their numbers. It now seems that state officials are ready to embrace other, more controversial methods of reducing the deer population, including ones that would seem to go straight to the source.
Just this week, New Jersey became the second state in the nation to approve the use of a new wildlife contraceptive for deer, with the hope that stemming their reproduction will allow the hunts and other methods to prove more effective. However, according to Ryan Hutchins at the Star Ledger, concerns have arisen not just about the controversial nature of the method, but about its practicality. The federally developed GonaCon "is simply too costly and impractical for use outside contained areas. It's not the 'magic bullet' that biologists have been searching for, and it only works in conjunction with other means of population reduction, like a hunt," state officials said.
According to those same state officials, the biggest problem with the drug is its combined costs. GonaCon is a single-shot solution with a per-dose cost of $50 (sold by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). However, according to Hutchins, "manpower costs can push that price tag to $1,000 per deer by some estimates."
"GonaCon works by limiting an animal's ability to produce sex hormones," says Gail Kern, a spokeswoman with the USDA. It would seem there is a difference of opinion between the federal and state level as to the effectiveness of the drug, as the federal USDA Agency manufactures and promotes it, but yet many state officials, such as Al Ivany, a biologist with New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection, dismiss it off-hand. "You would have to inoculate the entire deer population of New Jersey."
In good times, one might think that this would be a method worth trying out, in conjunction with a hunt. However, the significant inoculation cost per deer seems to make it impractical for the time being. With hundreds of millions of dollars being cut from education, police, firefighter and other budgets across the state, it's easy to say that there are better ways New Jersey should be spending its very limited amount of money.