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Hunting the Answer to Overpopulation

By: Steve Bowman,

In a culture that seems to think there is a pill to cure all ills, scientists believe they have created a contraceptive vaccine for deer that reduces fertility and thus the will to mate.

It could turn into the latest substitute argument for reducing deer numbers across the country in place of the tried-and -true management of hunting seasons. This latest vaccine is called GonaCon, developed over the last 20 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It is said to work by inducing the production of antibodies to the sex drive hormones in both does and bucks. Maryland and New Jersey have already licensed the drug’s use in their urban areas where white-tailed deer are overpopulated.

The problem, like so many contraceptive ideas for wildlife, is actually injecting the animal. According to a BBC News report, that could cost as much as $1,000 per deer, with no guarantee that it would work in the long term. The United States population of deer is estimated to be around 20 million.

In trials of GonaCon, the USDA found that a single shot could last up to five years on captive animals. But there are concerns that in wild deer, its effectiveness could be cut in half.

Dr. David Goldade, a supervisory chemist at the National Wildlife Research Centre, told the BBC: "It's not a single solution to the problem; it's a tool to use. This alone can't bring a population down in a reasonable amount of time; it can manage the population that's there."

Managing the population that is there is exactly what hunters have been trying to do for decades. A little more freedom and acceptance to their methods could not only take care of the problem in a more affordable manner but provide a boost to other parts of the community.

According the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, hunting in America is big business, generating more than $67 billion in economic output and more than one million jobs in the United States.

That alone, especially in times of growing unemployment, would sound like enough to open the gates to more manageable hunting of overpopulated game.

If that weren’t enough, a new study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and conducted by Mile Creek Communications reveals that last year 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate through donations of venison by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat made its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need.

In a culture that seems to think a pill can cure all ills, you don’t have to look too far to see we have had the cure for some time in the form of the American hunter.

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