Deer contraception hits the target

For seven years, Kali Pereira of the Humane Society of the United States stalked deer in the steep, narrow, wooded neighborhoods of Hastings-on-Hudson north of New York City. In and around the small courtyards of the densely populated village. Keep an eye out for dogs—some on leashes, others roaming free in the woods—and for children and commuters. Peering around trees and shrubs and fences, she tracked which property owners would let them onto their land (green flag on mailbox) and which would not (red flag).

Pereira and her research team had one goal: get at least 60% of the village’s breeding females to understand whether a contraceptive could be safely administered to enough suburban deer to reduce their numbers and their impact in a busy environment where the deer reside move freely.

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Other studies supported by the HSUS had shown that the contraceptive PZP (porcine zona pellucida) reduced isolated deer populations, such as B. those on Fripp Island, South Carolina, which are cut off from the mainland. But would it work in Hastings-on-Hudson where deer could come and go? If the deer numbers went down, wouldn’t the deer move in from the outside and push the population back up, as happens when deer are culled?

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Pereira joined the team of HSUS staff and students from Tufts University working on the Hastings-on-Hudson project as a graduate student under researcher Allen Rutberg, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy, in 2015, a year after it began the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Now HSUS Senior Wildlife Field Manager Pereira and team members visited the village every winter, summer and fall. First, they sedated and tagged the females to identify them, then hand-injected a version of PZP that prevents births for two years. They later delivered second doses via darts. They checked if the females had fawns the next year and monitored the population.


Over time, Pereira became more confident. The team had treated more than 60% of the females and relocated and revaccinated half of them. She usually only saw fawns in areas where the team couldn’t treat deer. The number of deer decreased. New deer did not move in quickly – there was no room for them. Most of the treated females remained hidden in the suburbs where they had long found food. The deer population declined by 50% in five years. During the same period, police saw a 50% decrease in collisions between deer and vehicles.

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