Community weighs alternatives for deer control



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Stephanie Boyles Griffin from the Humane Society of the United States speaks about nonlethal ways to halt the growing deer population in Bloomington at a meeting Tuesday at the Monroe County Convention Center. One of the research methods HSUS she talked about was the immunocontraception vaccine, Porcine Zona Pellucida, which is used as a fertility control drug. Ben Mikesell and Ben Mikesell

Following the city council’s decision earlier this year to hire sharp shooters to kill dozens of deer near Griffy Lake Nature Preserve, advocates convened Tuesday to discuss alternative solutions to the city’s burgeoning deer problem.

The forum, in which the Bloomington Advocates for Nonviolent and Innovative Deer Stewardship spoke, was coordinated by the Humane Society of the United States.

Sandra Shapshay , an IU professor and president of the deer advocacy group, began by highlighting the key problems with the city council’s decision.

“We place value on the welfare and lives of animals,” Shapshay said. “It would be better to resolve these problems without bringing out the guns.”

Shapshay said she believes the city council failed to consider alternative solutions to the issue.

According to its Facebook page, the Bloomington Advocates for Nonviolent and Innovative Deer Stewardship are “Bloomington citizens advocating for humane and twenty-first century solutions that foster peaceful human-deer coexistence.”

They are a relatively new organization, having launched the page in June, using it to spread awareness about deer population control and to share endearing photos.

Afterward, Shapshay introduced two individuals from the Humane Society who gave presentations on alternative means to control the deer population.

Stephanie Boyles Griffin , senior director of innovative wildlife management and services for the Humane Society , offered several alternatives to managing the problem, focusing mainly on the PZP vaccine, a contraceptive vaccine that would defer deer from procreating.

“This immunocontraceptive vaccine is quite elegant and has already been used successfully on whitetail deer,” she said. “In addition, PZP only costs $25 per dose, does not pass through the food chain or onto the deer’s offspring, is reversible if treatment is stopped, and is 90 percent effective.”

In addition, Griffin provided several examples of communities across the country that have managed their deer populations using the PZP vaccine, further buttressing the argument that nonlethal deer management is feasible.

When a member of the audience asserted that PZP was not effective, Griffin admitted that PZP has never been used in an open system like Griffy Lake.

Furthermore, Griffin said the process of obtaining permission from the state is somewhat complex and reiterated her point that time is of the essence.

The city of Bloomington has already signed a $31,000 contract with White Buffalo, Inc., a firm that specializes in deer management. In August, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources approved the city council’s deer management plan, meaning sharp shooters could begin killing deer as soon as Nov. 15.

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