Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. is in the midst of developing a program to control the park’s deer population and is considering using birth control vaccines as a more humane approach to deer management.
Deer culling, the management of a deer population in a certain area, is a common practice in some national parks, as a dense deer population can lead to problems for the biological diversity and vegetation of a forest, The Washington Post reported.
Rock Creek Park plans to begin taking measures to control the park’s deer population. Currently, deer density is 73 per square mile. The objective is to decrease excessive deer population to about 15-20 per square mile.
Although hunting is the cheapest way to manage a population, the Humane Society of the United States opposes this practice. The organization told The Post controlled hunting in the park is a “wasteful killing program.”
The group has promised to fund half the cost of a test project that would use a birth-control vaccine, called PZP. The porcine zona pellucida or PZP vaccine is an injection into the muscle of a female deer, which causes an antibiotic reaction that distorts sperm receptors on the membrane that surrounds the hind’s eggs. Proponents claim PZP could be injected into captured deer or administered through a dart. This vaccine would prevent fertilization for a few years.
The National Park Service proposed several criteria that a birth control vaccine would have to follow in order to be considered for usage in deer culling. The treatment would have to be federally approved, leave no residue in meat and be administered by dart.
“No agent exists at present that fully meets all criteria,” Nick Bartolomeo, Rock Creek Park’s chief of resources management told The Post.