What non-lethal methods are currently available to reduce the local deer population?
Currently, no "fertility control" drugs (immunocontraceptives) are permitted for legal use to treat deer in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is the regulatory agency responsible for the regulation and enforcement of wildlife-related laws and restrictions on wildlife management or research. It is at the discretion of the agency to grant permission and a special permit to conduct research on the experimental or commercial use of immunocontraceptive drugs.
Deer fertility control technology has been researched over the past few decades. Two drugs currently exist as a form of birth control to suppress fertility in adult female deer: PZP and GonaCon. PZP was first developed in 1972. PZP has not gained FDA or EPA approval for commercial use on deer.
GonaCon is the newest immunocontraceptive drug and was developed in 1998. It was granted EPA approval for experimental use by hand injection in September 2009. Permission to use GonaCon must be granted by a state wildlife regulatory agency. GonaCon research has shown 67-88% success the first year and 47-48% success the second year.
As research advances, GonaCon and other fertility control methods may hold promise for future use as an effective non-lethal deer management tool.