Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Population-level effects of immunocontraception in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Allen T. Rutberg A C and Ricky E. Naugle B

A Department of Environmental and Population Health, Tufts–Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, 200 Westboro Road, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA.

B The Humane Society of the United States, 700 Professional Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20879, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: allen.rutberg@tufts.edu

Wildlife Research 35(6) 494-501 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR07128
Submitted: 4 September 2007  Accepted: 6 June 2008   Published: 22 October 2008


In North America, dense populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in suburbs, cities and towns have stimulated a search for new population-management tools. Most research on deer contraception has focused on the safety and efficacy of immunocontraceptive vaccines, but few studies have examined population-level effects. We report here results from two long-term studies of population effects of the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, and at Fire Island National Seashore (FIIS), New York, USA. Annual population change at NIST was strongly correlated with population fertility (rP = 0.82, P = 0.001); when population fertility at NIST dropped below 0.40 fawns per female, the population declined. Contraceptive treatments at NIST were associated with a 27% decline in population between 1997 and 2002, and fluctuated thereafter with the effectiveness of contraceptive treatments. In the most intensively treated segment of FIIS, deer population density declined by ~58% between 1997 and 2006. These studies demonstrate that, in principle, contraception can significantly reduce population size. Its usefulness as a management tool will depend on vaccine effectiveness, accessibility of deer for treatment, and site-specific birth, death, immigration, and emigration rates.


Barbour A. G. Fish D. 1993 The biological and social phenomenon of Lyme disease. Science 260 1610 1616 doi:10.1126/science.8503006

Brown T. L. Decker D. J. Riley S. J. Enck J. W. Lauber T. B. Curtis P. D. Mattfeld G. 2000 The future of hunting as a mechanism to control white-tailed deer populations. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28 797 807

Buckland S. T. , Anderson D. R. , Burnham K. P. , and Laake J. L. (1993). ‘Distance Sampling: Estimating Abundance of Biological Populations.’ (Chapman and Hall: London.)

Burnham K. P. Anderson D. R. Laake J. L. 1980 Estimation of density from line transect sampling of biological populations. Wildlife Monographs 72 1 202

Conover M. R. Pitt W. C. Kessler K. K. DuBow T. J. Sanborn W. A. 1995 Review of human injuries, illnesses, and economic losses caused by wildlife in the United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin 23 407 414

Curtis P. D. Hauber J. R. 1997 Public involvement in deer management decisions: consensus versus consent. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25 399 403

Curtis P. D. Pooler R. L. Richmond M. E. Miller L. A. Mattfield G. F. Quimby F. W. 2002 Comparative effects of GnRH and porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccines for controlling reproduction in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Reproduction Supplement 60 131 141

Davis D. E. , and Winstead R. L. (1980). Estimating the numbers of wildlife populations. In ‘Wildlife Management Techniques Manual’. (Ed. S. D. Schemnitz.) pp. 221–245. (The Wildlife Society: Bethesda, MD.)

DeNicola A. J. Williams S. C. 2008 Sharpshooting suburban white-tailed deer reduces deer–vehicle collisions. Human–Wildlife Conflicts 2 28 33

DeNicola A. J., ,  VerCauteren K. C. , Curtis P. D. , and Hyngstrom S. E. (2002). Managing white-tailed deer in suburban environments. A technical guide. Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, NY.

Fagerstone K. A. , Coffey M. A. , Curtis P. D. , Dolbeer R. A. , Killian G. J. , Miller L. A. , and Wilmot L. M. (2002). Wildlife Fertility Control. Wildlife Society Technical Review 02–2. Wildlife Society, Bethesda, MD.

Fraker M. A. Brown R. G. Gaunt G. E. Kerr J. A. Pohajdak B. 2002 Long-lasting, single dose immunocontraception of fallow deer in British Columbia. Journal of Wildlife Management 66 1141 1147

Gilbert F. F. , and Dodds D. G. (1992). ‘The Philosophy and Practice of Wildlife Management.’ (Krieger: Malabar.)

Hansen L. Beringer J. 1997 Managed hunts to control white-tailed deer populations on urban public areas in Missouri. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25 484 487

Hernandez S. Locke S. L. Cook M. W. Harveson L. A. Davis D. S. Lopez R. R. Silvy N. J. Fraker M. A. 2006 Effects of SpayVac® on urban female white-tailed deer movements. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34 1430 1434

Killian G. Miller L. Rhyan J. Doten H. 2006 Immunocontraception of Florida feral swine with a single-dose GnRH vaccine. American Journal of Reproductive Immunology 55 378 384 doi:10.1111/j.1600-0897.2006.00379.x

Kilpatrick H. J. LaBonte A. M. Seymour J. T. 2002 A shotgun–archery deer hunt in a residential community: evaluation of hunt strategies and effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 30 478 486

Kirkpatrick J. F. (2005). The elusive promise of wildlife fertility control: a personal perspective. In ‘Humane Wildlife Solutions: the Role of Immunocontraception’. (Ed. A. T. Rutberg.) pp. 63–75. (Humane Society Press: Washington, DC.)

Kirkpatrick J. F. , and Rutberg A. T. (2001). Fertility control in wildlife. In ‘The State of the Animals 2001’. (Eds D. J. Salem and A. N. Rowan.) pp. 183–198. (Humane Society Press: Washington, DC.)

Kirkpatrick J. F. Turner A. 2007 Immunocontraception and increased longevity in equids. Zoo Biology 26 237 244

Kirkpatrick J. F. Liu I. K. M. Turner J. W. Jr 1990 Remotely-delivered immunocontraception in feral horses. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18 326 330

Kirkpatrick J. F. Turner J. W. Jr Liu I. K. M. Fayrer-Hosken R. Rutberg A. T. 1997 Case studies in wildlife immunocontraception: wild and feral equids and white-tailed deer. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 9 105 110

Kohrn B. (Ed.) (1998). The increasing conflicts of deer and human populations in suburban areas. Buffalo Environmental Law Journal 5, 354–492.

Lauber T. B. Knuth B. A. 2000 Suburban residents’ criteria for evaluating contraception and other deer management techniques. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 5 1 17

Liu I. K. M. Bernoco M. Feldman M. 1989 Contraception in mares heteroimmunized with porcine zona pellucida. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 85 19 29

McShea W. J. Monfort S. L. Hakim S. Kirkpatrick J. Liu I. Turner J. W. Jr Chassy L. Munson L. 1997 The effect of immunocontraception on the behavior and reproduction of white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 61 560 569

Miller L. A. Johns B. E. Killian G. J. 1999 Long-term effects of PZP immunization on reproduction in white-tailed deer. Vaccine 18 568 574 doi:10.1016/S0264-410X(99)00165-6

Muller L. I. Warren R. J. Evans D. L. 1997 Theory and practice of immunocontraception in wild mammals. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25 504 514

Naugle R. E. Rutberg A. T. Underwood H. B. Turner J. W. Jr Liu I. K. M. 2002 Field testing of immunocontraception on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at Fire Island National Seashore, New York, USA. Reproduction Supplement 60 143 153

O’Connell A. F. , and Sayre M. W. (1988). White-tailed deer management study: Fire Island National Seashore. Final Report CA-1600-4-0005. National Park Service, Washington, DC.

Palmer W. L. , Storm G. L. , Quinn R. , Tzilkowski W. M. , and Lovallo M. J. (1997). Profiles of deer under different management and habitat conditions in Pennsylvania. In ‘The Science of Overabundance’. (Eds W. J. McShea, H. B. Underwood and J. H. Rappole.) pp. 151–163. (Smithsonian Press: Washington, DC.)

Peck L. J. Stahl J. E. 1997 Deer management techniques employed by the Columbus and Franklin County Park District, Ohio. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25 440 446

Rutberg A. T. (1997). The science of deer management: an animal welfare perspective. In ‘The Science of Overabundance’. (Eds W. J. McShea, H. B. Underwood and J. H. Rappole.) pp. 37–54. (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC.)

Rutberg A. T. (2005). Deer contraception: what we know and what we don’t. In ‘Humane Wildlife Solutions’. (Ed. A. T. Rutberg.) pp. 23–42. (Humane Society Press: Washington, DC.)

Rutberg A. T. Naugle R. E. 2008 Deer–vehicle collision trends at a suburban immunocontraception site. Human–Wildlife Conflicts 2 60 67

Rutberg A. T. Naugle R. E. Thiele L. A. Liu I. K. M. 2004 Effects of immunocontraception on a suburban population of white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus. Biological Conservation 116 243 250

Stout R. J. Knuth B. A. Curtis P. D. 1997 Preferences of suburban landowners for deer management techniques: a step towards better communication. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25 348 359

Swihart R. K. , Picone P. M. , DeNicola A. J. , and Cornicelli L. (1995). Ecology of urban and suburban white-tailed deer. In ‘Urban Deer: A Manageable Resource?’. (Ed. J. McAninch.) pp. 35–44. (North Central Section, The Wildlife Society: St Louis.)

Tober J. A. (1981). ‘Who Owns the Wildlife?’ (Greenwood Press: Westport, CT.)

Turner J. W. Jr Liu I. K. M. Kirkpatrick J. F. 1992 Remotely delivered immunocontraception in captive white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 56 154 157

Turner J. W. Jr Kirkpatrick J. F. Liu I. K. M. 1996 Effectiveness, reversibility, and serum antibody titers associated with immunocontraception in captive white-tailed deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 60 45 51 doi:10.2307/3802038

Turner J. W. Jr Liu I. K. M. Flanagan D. R. Rutberg A. T. Kirkpatrick J. F. 2001 Immunocontraception in feral horses: one inoculation provides one year of infertility. Journal of Wildlife Management 65 235 241 doi:10.2307/3802902

Turner J. W. Jr Liu I. K. M. Flanagan D. R. Rutberg A. T. Kirkpatrick J. F. 2007 Immunocontraception in wild horses: one inoculation provides two years of infertility. Journal of Wildlife Management 71 662 667 doi:10.2193/2005-779

Turner J. W. Rutberg A. T. Naugle R. E. Kaur M. A. Flanagan D. R. Bertschinger H. J. Liu I. K. M. 2008 Controlled-release components of PZP contraceptive vaccine extend duration of infertility. Wildlife Research 35 555 562 doi:10.1071/WR07159

Underwood H. B. (2005). White-tailed deer ecology and management on Fire Island National Seashore. National Park Service Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR – 2005/022. (National Park Service: Washington, DC.)

Underwood H. B. , and Porter W. F. (1997). Reconsidering paradigms of overpopulation in ungulates: white-tailed deer at Saratoga National Park. In ‘The Science of Overabundance’. (Eds W. J. McShea, H. B. Underwood and J. H. Rappole.) Smithsonian Press, Washington, DC, pp. 185–198.

Full Text PDF (212 KB) Export Citation Cited By (22)