Non-Lethal Deer Population Management for Urban and Suburban Environments
See below for the latest news updates

Deer Culls used to manage suburban deer create a public safety issue and provide only a short term solution, requiring a perpetual killing program.  Examples of the Perpetual, Annual Deer Cull.  Many people don't want their neighborhood deer to be slaughtered.  Although degraded habitat is a major cause for the decline of the U.S. deer population, suburbs often provide excellent deer habitat.  Deer are edge dwellers, living at the interface of the meadow and the thick forest.  A lush suburban habitat can support more deer, the carrying capacity, than a forest.  Communities wanting fewer deer can reduce the carrying capacity (see figure above) using fences, deer resistant landscaping and repellents.  Careful use of dogs or other deterrents can replicate the effect of a predator in a natural environment, keeping deer on the move and restricting their access to food.   Examples of non-lethal approaches, news below for contraception, sterilization, and relocation.  A ban on feeding deer is often a first approach, sometimes a required approach.  Also a deer population survey.

Deer respond to a cull with increased fertility, producing more twins and triplets, and a larger proportion of female fawns that will further increase the deer population -- the rebound effect in the figure above [research support] --compensatory reproduction, also observed in coyote populations Light to moderate hunting, as in many urban culls, does not change the long-run total deer population in an otherwise stable environment.  More dramatic culls, keeping the deer population at about 50 or 60 percent of the carrying capacity, achieves the maximum sustainable yield, the largest number of deer than can be killed annually.  Also, other deer attracted by available food may migrate into the area, although suburban does have very small ranges and migration rates will depend on local factors.  A sterile doe will discourage new deer from entering her territory, the "placeholder" effect, and eat food that would result in more fawns from fertile does. 

The result of a cull is a future, perpetual negative cash outlay for communities and lots of slaughtered deer.  Cost analysis of urban deer cull programs typically ignores the future cost of maintaining the program and also ignores the intrinsic value of the life of each deer.   The January 2018 issue of Wildlife Professional advises that it is a myth that wildlife populations need to be hunted or harvested to control populations [p. 28].  

Deer exterminators at work using tools of the trade: clover trap and bolt gun.


Deer culls using sharpshooters or bow hunters may not be feasible in suburban environments because of public safety concerns.  Bow hunting is becoming more popular, but even under the best conditions a significant number of deer are likely to be wounded [graphic examples] and not recovered by archers, 50 percent rates are reported in the literature.  Although many hunters will not participate in an urban cull, considering it an extermination rather than a hunt, cities often find others willing to pay a license fee to participate.  Professional sharpshooters improve public safety and kill efficiency, but costs run from about $300 to $1,000 per deer. At right a video of the trap and kill method used by many deer exterminators, including Cornell. 

Confusing the public debate are the wide range of unsupported optimal deer density recommendations presented to the public as scientific management goals (deer density and forest regeneration) and the concept that deer culls can generally be used to reduce the risk of Lyme disease, contrary to most of the current research. This Guide to Urban Deer Management contains links to urban news by state giving some history of management efforts.  In all cases, decision makers should be aware that they are designing the future herd based on the management method.  
Deer Contraception

Products: Gonacon, Spayvac a PZP (porcine zona pellucid)  Cost per deer can be in the two hundred dollar range, but will vary depending local labor costs, number of deer and related issues.  Birth control needs to be reapplied after a few years, up to six years for Spayvac, but the time is being extended as the technology develops.  Success rates are often reported to be in the 90 to 95 percent range.  This approach generally has a lower risk of deer fatalities than sterilization.  
     Speakers at the Botstiber Institute for Wildlife Fertility Control discuss urban fertility control in May, 2018.   An article from HSUS.  A private effort to experiment with contraception in British Columbia. The U.S. Humane Society provides this service, contact information and an example proposal.  The nonprofit Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana, has many years experience working with horses, deer, and other animals.   On July 6, 2017, the EPA approved an application to register ZonaStat-H, a fertility control vaccine that will provide a humane management tool for managers of deer populations.

News

Oak Bay seeks more provincial funding for deer birth control program November 15, 2018 British Columbia, Oak Bay News
...  UWSS is committed to inoculating and getting this done next summer, so we’re moving forward with that … we need this grant money to do that... The proposed program funding for 2019 is $63,310 ...

Montclair, MEC investigating deer count to assess numbers October 18, 2018 New Jersey, Montclair Local
... The Montclair Environmental Commission is recommending that a deer count be conducted to assess the number of deer and their locations. Members are also discussing the possibility of the town pursuing vaccination birth control and, if all else fails, hunting...

Bloomington, Deer cull not the answer to overpopulation October 10, 2018 Indiana, Indiana Daily Student 
... it does not appear that non-lethal methods would cost substantially more. While it cost $43,000 to kill 62 deer last year, the Deer Task Force said in its 2012 report that contraception and sterilization cost between $600 to $1,000 per deer and that effective fencing can be built for $6 to $8 per foot...

Braintree councilor floats idea of using birth control on deer October 5, 2018 Massachusetts, Wicked Local Braintree
...  Councilor Tim Carey ... would like to further explore the possibility of using birth-control tranquilizers to control the deer population... Mayor Joseph Sullivan also penned a letter raising concerns about the safety of such a hunt on town land...

Deer management in Oak Bay is proceeding according to plan August 16, 2018 British Columbia, Oak Bay News
... In September, an immuno-contraceptive vaccine will be administered to some of the uncollared Oak Bay does, with a booster administered a few weeks later prior to the rutting season... The idea is to reduce and stabilize the deer population by cutting the birth rate, and without opening up space for deer from surrounding populations to simply move in...

Hastings-on-Hudson program uses contraception to reduce fawn rate August 10, 2018 New York, The Journal News | LoHud.com
...Four years into the village deer contraception program... the mayor said, "there are far, far fewer fawns which you typically see at this time of the summer — I can't say that I've seen a single one ... If the white-tailed deer population is found to have been substantially reduced, the village will adopt a regular contraception protocol...
     Project looks for ways to lower deer population August 10, 2018 New York, Westchester News 12
... immune contraception...  a method to test if the population is in fact getting smaller... "Fifty households all around the village put a hasta plant in a pot and they check it every day, and then they report back in how long that plant has survived without being eaten," said Dr. Lemons. “We saw a doubling of the time that those plants would survive.” ...

Geese numbers down, deer on the rise June 21, 2018 New Jersey, Montclair Local
... “Deer have completely destroyed what was once a huge selling point for our home, a beautifully-maintained front-yard flower garden... A Dryden Road resident has requested that the town come up with a plan using birth control methods to control the deer population...

... the program, intended to test administration of a birth control vaccine, had been expanded to include a surgical component. The program had been scheduled to start in February and will now start sometime in 2019 ... Village trustees are also considering changes to village code that would permit high deer fencing ...

Paula Gillikin Keeps Watch Over Wild Horses April 30, 2018 North Carolina, Coastal Review Online
... The [horse] herd population, currently around 30, has had some ups and downs in the decades since but is stable now because of Gillikin and a birth-control method called immunocontraception... While working on a white-tailed deer immunocontraception project in South Carolina with her adviser, Dr. Allen Rutberg from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University near Boston, where Gillikin earned her master’s in animals and public policy ...

Contraceptive vaccine planned for Oak Bay deer April 10, 2018 British Columbia, Times Colonist
... The program is “ground-breaking” and the first time in B.C. and Canada that the immunocontraceptive vaccine, Zonastat-D, would be used in a small, contained urban setting to manage deer ...  working with a laboratory in the hopes of developing a vaccine that is effective for five to seven years ...

Delafield establishes management committee to focus on reducing deer population March 20, 2018 Wisconsin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The committee will recommend deer management plans to the council ... It could also recommend contraceptives to maintain the population once it is culled...

Oak Bay, BC, moves ahead with experimental deer control program February 23, 2018 British Columbia, CBC.ca
... Zonastat-D was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in July 2017. Huxley said if the project gets provincial approval, Oak Bay will be the first community in Canada to use the drug on deer.  "This immuno-contraception is also being applied to wild horse populations in Alberta," ...


Sterilization

While spaying can be expensive, $1,000 per deer, because of high labor costs, local volunteers can bring costs down.  A $500 per deer cost can be achieved.  In many states, deer contraception is illegal.  Sterilization is typically 97 to 100 percent effective and only needs to be done once, but may result in the death or injury of some deer . This field surgery requires more supplies and equipment than contraception so easier access to deer such as through small roads becomes an issue.  Tubal ligation requires less intervention than spaying or ovariectomy, but will result in does going into heat which may attract bucks into the area.  Ovariectomy avoids this problem.  Speakers at the
Follow the progress of Maryland's first deer sterilization program at Wildlife Rescue.  A recent case example from New York.  A program just getting started in Clifton, Ohio.  A website with video of the sterilization project in San Jose, California, where the deer population has declined more than desired.  The project is described in this peer reviewed paper which also investigates an anomalous result from a sterilization project at Cornell.  

News

... making plans to kill up to 150 more deer in January during the city's fourth-annual deer cull.  Before that, the city plans to conduct another round of nonlethal sterilizations of female deer to surgically remove their ovaries ... 

River Vale, How to Deal With the Deer? Town Weighs a Hunt, Alternatives October 12, 2018 New Jersey, Pascack Press & Northern Valley Press
... Lin said state Fish, Game & Wildlife rejected Saddle River’s initial proposal for a surgical sterilization ... “It’s because of their bias against fertility treatments,” Lin told the mayors. “Non-lethal strategies are a win-win for the town, for the deer and for the people,“ she said...

Edison is taking initial steps in combating growing deer problem October 9, 2018 New Jersey, centraljersey.com
... options included ...archers  ... professional hunters to shoot ... tranquilize and kill...; and/or tranquilize and transport deer to a medical facility for sterilization .. which would cost the township $1,100 to $1,200 per deer to ... transport...

Staten Island, Deer crash danger continues on Island roads as vasectomies resume August 27, 2018 New York, SILive.com
... the city says the vasectomy program has proven a success, resulting in an 8 percent drop in the borough's deer population in the second year of the initiative. Last year, White Buffalo estimated Staten Island's deer population between 1,918 and 2,188 ... The most recent survey conducted by White Buffalo and verified by the city's Parks Department estimated the borough's deer population in 2017 at 2,053 with a decrease to 1,884 in 2018...

... - The accuracy of the estimates of the deer population continued to improve with another
year of data collection. Wards 1 and 2 are estimated to have approximately 216 deer (20 per square mile), including 78 in the sterilization study areas. However, the variation in density across sections of the Wards varied from 6 to 54 per square mile... 18 deer were sterilized in 2018. This increased sterilization rates to >96% in the southern study area, 70% in the area near Cedar bend ..,

State rejects Saddle River's plan to sterilize deer May 12, 2018 New Jersey, NorthJersey.com
... The Community Based Deer Management permit application to capture then sterilize female deer was formerly rejected May 3 by the Division of Fish and Wildlife “based on the low likelihood of success” ...

   This link contains details of the deer sterilization and cull in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan

... After a voters were asked whether they preferred lethal or non-lethal deer control measures in 2016, the council asked Cerf to come up with the non-lethal plan because a majority of voters preferred that option... “The deer will then be transported to a separate site where they will be spayed.” ...

...The bill to ban wildlife sterilization in Michigan was recently changed to allow Ann Arbor to continue its deer sterilization study through 2020.  The proposal is now in the hands of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  It will need a hearing, a committee vote, and a full senate vote before it goes to the Governor. You can follow the status of the bill at www.mileg.org...

A status update on Staten Island's biggest projects and toughest challenges April 25, 2018 New York, City & State
...controversial $3.6 million plan to sterilize Staten Island’s growing deer population seems to be working. With no natural predators in Staten Island and migration from New Jersey, the population grew from a documented 763 in 2014 to an estimated 2,000 last year. Two years into the unique program, the deer population declined 8 percent in the past year, while births were also down 50 percent...

Michigan House: No future deer sterilization for Ann Arbor April 17, 2018 Michigan, Detroit Free Press
... In a 69-40 vote on Tuesday, lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting the state Department of Natural Resources from issuing more sterilization permits until April 1, 2022...

... the Staten Island deer population has dropped 8%, city officials told the Daily News — crediting an oft-mocked program to perform vasectomies on male deer ...  having vets perform a surgery that takes just a few minutes ...  the number of baby Bambis appearing on Staten Island has decreased by more than half ...

... the city has performed vasectomies on 1,154 of Staten Island's male deer population ... there were more deer on Staten Island than anticipated, including more bucks in need of vasectomies ... the city has spent roughly $2,879 on each deer ...

Ann Arbor, See 2018 trail-cam photos of Ann Arbor's urban deer herds  March 24, 2018 Michigan, MLive.com
... A total of 72 female deer in Ann Arbor have had their ovaries surgically removed since last year...White Buffalo's sharpshooters also killed 211 deer during two separate culls since last year. Another 63 deer in Ann Arbor were killed by a different sharpshooting team in 2016...
... After killing another 115 deer in January ... White Buffalo now acknowledges it significantly over-estimated the deer population in Ann Arbor last year.  "Based on observations from the 2018 survey, the correction factor utilized in the prior year is believed to have been too high," ... 234 fewer than were estimated last year ...
     Ann Arbor Winter 2018 Deer Management Program March 19, 2018 Michigan, City of Ann Arbor
... The Southern zone is estimated to have achieved 96% or more adult female deersterilization rate.  The Northern zone is estimated to have achieved a 70% adult female deer sterilization rate; however, only three adult females remain in this area that have not been sterilized... The limited number of unsterilized females in the Southern and Northern zones should greatly reduce the recruitment rate and contribute to a population decline over time.  The study demonstrates an approximately 33% reduction in deer population in the Southern and Northern zones...

...  Tom Crawford and Derek Delacourt from the city's administration deserve credit for going to Lansing last month and testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee, making the city's case for sterilization as a way to complement lethal methods... an effort in Lansing to ban the sterilization of deer in Michigan...

Ithaca prepares for potential war on deer January 23, 2018 New York, ithaca.com
... according to a case study of the Cayuga Heights deer management program, a total of 152 does (100 percent of all female deer) were sterilized between 2012 and 2013, with an additional five sterilized in 2016 and, over a two year period beginning in 2015, White Buffalo removed 72 males by way of crossbow.  "Since we've started this program, we have not had a deer-car collision in the village (of Cayuga Heights)," said Woodard...

... The House Natural Resources Committee will appoint a special committee to consider a bill that would ban deer sterilization programs like Ann Arbor's, Chairman Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, announced on Wednesday...

... A total of 54 ovariectomies were completed last winter and the goal was to do up to 26 more, working in three zones ... White Buffalo, which has conducted sterilization experiments in several communities across the United States, argues it can be effective and Ann Arbor could see a 10-20 percent annual reduction in deer population...

Female deer are brought into a makeshift operating room in a shed at the Huron Hills Golf Course in Ann Arbor for ovary removal on Jan. 3, 2018. The surgical sterilizations are being done as part of the city's deer management program.


Relocation, Translocation

A common objection to relocation is that many deer perish as a result, since deer are flight animals and easily stressed by any constraint. A 2008 study in Texas where there had been significant experience with Trap, Transport, and Transplant concludes "reasonable survival rates can be achieved." (see research below).  Costs can be as low as $150 to 200 per deer. As the information below suggests, success varies widely depending on circumstances. Significant deer mortality may result from from the difficulty of adjusting to a new environment and the transportation stress, although wild deer are routinely transported for deer research.  As with a cull, if there is ample food the remaining deer will respond with increased fertility.  Also, the potential of spreading Chronic Wasting or other diseases should be considered: Geography of Chronic Wasting.  Relocating deer into a chronic wasting disease zone may improve genetic diversity and hasten the herds adaption to disease resistance.

News

Moose tranquilized and relocated in Colorado Springs  September 5, 2018 Colorado, KKTV
... spent hours roaming through neighborhoods ... To prevent any harm coming to either moose or a bystander, Berscheid said CPW decided to tranquilize the animal and relocate it... 

Kimberley, The ups and downs of deer translocation August 17, 2018 British Columbia, Kimberley Bulletin
... Fifty does and fawns were taken out of Kimberley in five days last March. Oakley says the operation goes quite smoothly and no deer have died from being moved... One of those issues is the fact that the translocated (collared) deer show up in other communities...  the majority of the animals are staying out of towns. Their predation is rate is slightly higher ...
... translocation will continue to be their number one method for reducing deer populations ... the committee has been conducting an annual deer count ... Translocation, not withstanding some of the minor findings, has been a huge success...

... Comparison of BCS, pregnancy rates and pathogen exposure of uMD [urban mule deer] and nuMD [non-urban mule deer] showed that the health of the two populations did not significantly differ, suggesting uMD translocations do not pose a severe risk of pathogen transmission between mule deer populations and that these selected pathogens do not factor in the decline of the nuMD population...

IDFG officers and wildlife staff responded to a report of a moose in the city of Burley, Idaho. They were able to tranquilize the moose near the Maverick gas station on east Main Street and safely move it. - June 5, 2018 Idaho


...  Fifty elk transported from Arizona now officially call West Virginia “home.”  ... The free-ranging elk were captured in late January and held near Flagstaff, Arizona, for disease testing, before being transported in early March to a holding pen near Holden, West Virginia ..,

Cranbrook to apply for autumn deer cull April 10, 2018 British Columbia, E-Know.ca 
... The city is going to explore another option with the province to see if it can apply for both a cull and a translocation, with the ability to perhaps choose which method to use...

North Logan deer control program not out of woods March 24, 2018 Utah, The Herald Journal
... urban deer programs in about 15 cities statewide. Some relocate the deer ... it cost about $250 for each one ...

Arizona elk arrive in West Virginia March 19, 2018 WVDNR News
... Fifty-one elk completed their journey from Arizona and were released into a holding facility in Logan County earlier this month.  The elk, which are part of West Virginia’s elk restoration project, were captured in late January and held near Flagstaff, Arizona for disease testing..,

... deer populations, those in southeast Kentucky are viewed as relatively low compared to other regions, even after a decade of restrictive doe harvest and multiple years of population supplementation via translocation ... 

Urban deer translocation study wraps up February 7, 2018 British Columbia, Columbia Valley Pioneer
... The main stumbling block to continuing on with translocation was the propensity of some individuals, I think it was about 12 of 40 collared deer that showed up in other communities ...  there was also about the same number or more more deer that did revert to what we call natural mule deer habits ...

Chrysler site deer trapped and relocated January 19, 2018 Wisconsin, Kenosha News
... Animal lovers of Kenosha have watched the pair with concern for months after they were spotted in the summer... Darting the deer with tranquilizer was also not a good option because of the open nature of the site ... the DNR decided to put traps on the property... designed to trap deer unharmed ...

Lake Superior caribou helicoptered to island with no wolves January 16, 2018 Ontario, Duluth News Tribune
... nine caribou, one bull and eight cows, were tranquilized and taken aboard helicopters from Michipicoten Island on Lake Superior to the Slate Islands, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry... The Michipicoten herd has been decimated in recent years after wolves crossed an ice bridge from the Ontario mainland ...



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