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Md. Approves Use Of Deer Birth Control

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CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — Maryland has become the first state to approve the use of Gonacon, a deer birth control product, but the state’s director of wildlife said Friday he can’t imagine it ever being used in what he termed the open landscape.

“This is the only immuno-contraceptive for deer that has federal approval,” said Paul Peditto, director of the Wildlife and Heritage Service. “It was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We feel good about being the first jurisdiction to approve its use,” Peditto said. “It shows we have an open mind, but is not a magic bullet for deer control. It is an option in very limited circumstances and will have virtually no consequence in terms of day-to-day deer management and deer hunting. It won’t be used in 98 percent of the state.”

Peditto said the manpower and expense of applying the birth control chemical will limit its use.

“It will cost up to $1,000 to apply it to a deer,” Peditto said.

The deer must first be shot via dart gun to tranquilize it before Gonacon can be injected. EPA requires that the deer be tagged so that it can be identified as having been treated. Another tag will state that the meat of the animal should not be consumed by humans.

“It works on 80 percent of the deer that are injected,” Peditto said. “The following year, however, half of those injected deer will become pregnant unless hand-injected a second time.”

Peditto said authority to sedate, inject and tag deer won’t simply be turned over to a home owners association and its maintenance crew.

Applicators must jump through several hoops, including registration, testing and association with a licensed veterinarian.

Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, said Friday that HSUS applauds Maryland for approving the use of Gonacon. She said the society has been a strong supporter and developer of contraceptive agents as a means of nonlethal wildlife management.

“There is a demand for nonlethal options and now that Maryland has stepped forward we believe the DNR will start hearing from those who want to use that option,” Boyles said.

Boyles said she anticipates advances in the chemical makeup and delivery systems that will lessen the manpower and cost now involved in applying Gonacon.

“Our vision is to be able to remotely dart the animal with the drug and tag. That way you don’t have to capture it. There are always some animals that don’t survive the trauma of the capture and processing, and we would like to eliminate that.”

Boyles expects, too, the development of a drug that will last more than one year. She said time-released injections are currently being studied.

Information from: Cumberland (Md.) Times-News, http://www.times-news.com/timesnew.html

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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