Hunting blogs across the country have been abuzz with news that Maryland recently became the first state to approve use of a deer contraceptive. On the surface, this seems like a bad thing for deer hunters.
Contraceptives are a poor idea for managing wild deer populations, yet they have been championed by anti-hunting groups for obvious reasons. Why not use contraceptives?
First, they aren’t reliable. The contraceptive GonaCon shows about a 30 percent failure rate, which increases substantially in year 2. Second, it is extremely expensive to administer – about $1,000 per deer. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, contraceptives remove hunters as managers (you know, those folks who actually pay money out of their own pockets for the opportunity to manage game populations and thus fund the majority of wildlife and conservation projects in this country.)
However, as Candus Thomson points out in her Baltimore Sun Blog Outdoors Girl, Maryland’s move is not doomsday for deer hunters in the state. In fact, it’s not even new news. The DNR adopted its policy after a March meeting of Wildlife Advisory Commission because of the EPA’s approval of the drug last year.
Thomson writes "the limitations on its use are so daunting, the expertise required to administer it so limited and the expense so high that it is unlikely GonaCon will ever be used by Maryland’s biologists. Hunters need not worry about GonaCon making them obsolete."
"For the record, Maryland never said it was going to use GonaCon. NEVER. It merely set strict standards for its use, which is a responsible thing to do … In fact, state wildlife managers have made it clear that they have no intention of injecting deer at a cost to taxpayers of up to $1,000 per animal as a means to control the population."
In fact, Paul Peditto, director of the Wildlife and Heritage Service told ll "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."
So, although hunters should rightly be wary of deer contraceptive programs, it appears hunters in Maryland shouldn’t worry about replacement just yet. And while antihunting groups such as PETA might use this news for political posturing, the proper response from ethical hunters is to place trust in state wildlife managers and engage them in constructive dialogue. Meanwhile, we can all use this as an opportunity to remind everyone of the positive benefits of hunting. Oh … and offer our expertise and freezer space this coming fall.