|A young deer in Luria Park in Annandale.|
There was a packed house of rapt animal welfare advocates at the quarterly luncheon hosted by Sandy Lerner at her Ayrshire Farm estate in Upperville, Va., recently. The riveting topic was an exciting new approach in managing wildlife called Deer Spay, or more technically known as ovariectomy.
Enid Feinberg of Wildlife Rescue Inc., a local wildlife group based in Maryland, explained how her group participated in a successful three-year pilot program aimed at controlling the deer population by spaying female deer, thereby permanently preventing them from becoming pregnant. With this surgery, only the ovaries are removed, unlike the spaying of dogs and cats, which removes the uterus, as well as the ovaries.
The procedure is quick, safe, humane, efficient, and 100 percent effective. It is carried out by trained veterinarians and volunteers. The deer are injected by dart with a tranquilizer, carried to a mobile surgical unit where their ovaries are removed, then returned to the same location.
Other deer population control approaches involving contraceptives are much more expensive and labor intensive, because the deer have to be captured and treated repeatedly. Deer Spay is permanent, so a deer only needs to be captured, handled, and treated once.
A nationally recognized wildlife expert, Dr. Anthony DeNicola, manages the operation in Maryland. He has been conducting contraceptive projects throughout the United States for the past 19 years.
The wildlife advocacy group known as 21st Century Deer Management for Fairfax County would like to see the county adopt the Deer Spay program as an alternative to its bowhunting program. This year, the county has expanded deer hunting to more parks, including several in the Annandale/Mason area.
21st Century Deer Management has been urging Fairfax County to terminate its approach to killing deer and instead adopt more humane, collaborative, and comprehensive methods for controlling the deer population and explore the use of modern technology and solutions based on conflict resolution.
Proponents of hunting and killing deer have targeted pregnant or nursing deer because their need for higher caloric intake leads to increased foraging activity and thus more damage to the environment. But rather than solving the problem, 21st Century Deer Management believes herd-culling through the “hit and miss” nature of hunting causes the remaining fertile deer to breed back up to the habitat carrying capacity.
There hasn’t been reliable reporting regarding actual deer population numbers, the group says. Typically, there are circumstantial estimates on browse-line damage and other studies. Research has found in suburban areas, deer movement within their range is very small. So, another benefit of spaying deer is the establishment of “infertile placeholders.” Spayed deer will not leave an area, and other deer will not enter into that area with any degree of frequency.
Killing deer only to have them breed right back up to capacity is not an effective wildlife management approach, nor is it humane. In contrast, Deer Spay ensures that population numbers are sustainably limited in that territory—without harm to individual deer.
To learn more about the “Don’t kill her…spay her” campaign and other effective, sustainable, and humane solutions to deer-human conflicts, contact 21st Century Deer Management for Fairfax County. The organization needs to raise funds to support its work. Please send donations to Pets Ltd. (Deer Fund), P.O. Box 7175, Fairfax Station, VA 22039.