Click to enlarge. Sorry for the blurriness. This is a screen grab of a scan of a photocopy. Thanks, EPA. You can access the original by going here and searching for EPA registration number 56228-40 or by going to regulations.gov and searching for docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0776
You may have heard the rumors that USDA was considering contraception as population control for deer (and wild horses and goats). They're apparently moving forward with this plan if they bothered to go through the process of registering a product with EPA (which confuses me - vaccines are NEVER registered as pesticides, they fall under FDA's jurisdiction. Why the exception for this one?)
Note that this vaccine can only be applied by hand. That means the animal first has to be trapped or snared, leading to great stress on the animal. Not to mention being extremely expensive.
It's only guaranteed to last for a year. Depending on life expectancy, it's safe to estimate that you'd have to treat the same individuals at least several times in their life.
USDA cites "great public interest" for their reason for pursuing this form of population control. I believe it. "Great public interest" was also the reason USDA pursued and eventually implemented the incredibly flawed National Organic Standards. I appreciate a government agency that's willing to listen to the public. But this is just ridiculous.
Hunting is known to be very effective for deer population control. Not only does it NOT require state or federal money to implement (and in fact generates money through purchase of licenses and tags), it is arguably more humane than trapping/snaring/tranquilizing. It's certainly more humane than starvation, and gives the hunter and his/her family a source of environmentally friendly protein to eat. This sounds like win-win to me.
NPR ran a story recently about this type of special hunt in Connecticut where deer had reached densities of up to 60 per square mile. (Also, do you notice that many wildlife biologists are also hunters/pro-hunting? I thought it was just an Oregon thing, but apparently not).
I do understand people's concern about risks. Some of these parks are very close to houses. Maybe contraception could be useful in small, isolated areas where there's no safe way to discharge a firearm. But, forgive me for being so blunt, if you're going to go to the trouble of trapping or tranqing an animal, why not just kill it right there? Why submit them to multiple trapping and handling and then releasing them back into habitat where they'll still be at risk of starvation?
I've worked for USDA. They can't even afford to maintain their Forest Service roads or rest areas even with fees and even in high traffic areas. Where are they going to get the money to implement contraceptive-based population control program that actually works?
One way or the other, whether it's cruelty through neglect because we removed their natural predators, or hitting them with cars, or trapping and vaccinating or relocating or hunting, humans are going to intervene in these animals lives. We have to choose the most humane way to do so. I have a feeling that hunting is still under-utilized for population control simply because so many people are thoughtlessly anti-hunting.
Dear USDA: Spend some of the money going toward this whole program on educating the public about hunting. Maybe show some ribby, tick-infested deer and their dying fawns staggering through the park they've denuded of vegetation and getting hit by cars during their desperate search for food. Maybe it will get through to some people that hunting is not necessarily evil.