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City leaders consider birth control to curb deer

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:28 PM

Representatives of the Humane Society of the United States met with City Council and members of the community on Tuesday to discuss immunocontraception.

“We typically get called into a community where there’s an impasse in deer management,” said Stephanie Boyles Griffin, senior director of wildlife response, innovations and services for the society. “They call us in to see what the potential is for different options.”

In this case, City Councilmen Mike Fritz and John Hierholzer worked to get the Humane Society to come and talk.

“Many say that a bullet is so much cheaper, but it is not always humane,” Fritz said.

During the city’s deer cull in 2010, $9,962 was spent to take 51 deer — a cost of about $160 per animal. According to the Humane Society, the cost of the contraception project would be about $200 per dose, with a dose lasting about three years.

The vaccine is biodegradable and doesn’t pass through the food chain. In deer, the contraceptive effects of the vaccine are reversible after several years of treatment.

“You have to look at this as an opportunity rather than a problem,” Griffin said. “Numbers-wise, it’s easy to take a gun and remove a biological portion of the population.”

To get an idea of how well Grand Haven would fare, Griffin and her team from the Humane Society scouted the city’s deer population. So far, they’ve gotten positive results.

If the city decided to go this route, it would need approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. If the DNR says no, it’s a no-go.

Experts say it would be an ongoing process.

“Management is going to be like cutting the grass — you’re going to cull for a long time or you’re going to do this for a long time,” Griffin said. “Once you start, to keep the animal population the way it is, you will have to keep doing it.”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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