Chicago suburb nixes culling, will surgically sterilize 20

spectr17

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Suburb sterilizes deer

3/26/02

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) -- Officials in this Lake County community are hoping to surgically sterilize 20 white-tail does in a project other deer-plagued cities are watching.

Highland Park is the only community in Illinois to receive a research permit to conduct a sterilization program, said Marty Jones, urban deer project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The city has joined with the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the Milwaukee County Zoo for the project.

The cost of the sterilization program, proposed last summer by Elizabeth "Bess" Franks, curator of large mammals at the Milwaukee County Zoo, is $156,000. It could grow to $360,000 if the program is extended to four years, Highland Park Councilman Pete Koukos said.

As U.S deer herds reach their highest levels in two centuries, some who are trying to find non-lethal strategies to curb the deer population say sterilization could be the answer.

"Based on what we know (about deer behavior), our hunch is that permanently sterilizing does can effectively reduce deer populations long term," said Dr. Bob MacLean, a veterinarian hired by Highland Park who is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin.

He performed a 50-minute tubal ligation on an anesthetized 130-pound doe in a cramped ambulance-turned-operating room parked in a residential driveway.

Fourteen does have been sterilized so far in the Highland Park project that started in late January and is expected to end this month.

The goal of the experiment is to prove that sterilization works, MacLean said. If it succeeds, he said state and federal officials might accept the procedure as a management tool to control deer herds.

Wildlife experts estimate 750,000 deer live in Illinois. Although the overall herd hasn't dramatically increased in the last decade as it has in other states, the suburban deer population has soared, experts say.

Last year, nearly 400 people joined a lawsuit against Highland Park after the city announced plans to kill 20 deer. The sterilization experiment has been more warmly received.

"This is a very progressive program that could become a model for other cities," said Hillary Ross, who initiated the lawsuit.
 



huntducks

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I'll help out with my 270 sterilizer and only charge them 1000 per deer.

What a waste of money.<font color="Red">
 

spectr17

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Just in case the Chicago Tribune pulls the story at the link Sven posted, here it is.

Suburb sterilizes deer instead of killing them

By Amanda Vogt, Chicago Tribune staff reporter

March 26, 2002

Shooting deer with contraceptive darts hasn't culled the burgeoning herds. Neither have birth control pills. And now--in a radically different tactic--Highland Park is using a mobile operating room in the first experiment of its kind to sterilize animals that regard suburban landscaping as just so much salad.

The Lake County community has joined forces with the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the Milwaukee County Zoo, hoping to sterilize surgically 20 white-tail does in a project other deer-plagued cities are watching closely.

With U.S. herds at their highest level in two centuries, officials unwilling to be tarred as "Bambi killers" are struggling to devise non-lethal strategies to curb a population explosion that has turned the nation's suburbs into bedroom communities for hungry deer.

Rolling out the sterilization wagon could be the answer, said Dr. Bob MacLean, a veterinarian hired by Highland Park to take the battle to the enemy without shooting them. Last year's decision to have sharpshooters pick off eight of the animals triggered a firestorm of protest.

"Based on what we know [about deer behavior], our hunch is that permanently sterilizing does can effectively reduce deer populations long-term," MacLean said, shortly after completing a tubal ligation on an anesthetized 130-pound doe.

MacLean, who is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin, performed the 50-minute procedure in a cramped ambulance-turned-operating room parked in a residential driveway.

As the doe--now bearing a yellow ear tag with the number 121--gingerly struggled to her feet, MacLean said: "When she gets to where she can safely take a nap, she'll sleep it off."

So far, 14 does have been sterilized in the project, which started in late January and is scheduled to wind down this month because many animals are already too pregnant to be operated on safely.

The goal of the Highland Park experiment, MacLean said, is to prove that sterilization works. If it succeeds, he predicted that state and federal officials will accept the procedure as a management tool to control deer herds.

The story is much the same elsewhere in the country as officials and homeowners increasingly are forced to cope with white-tail deer that have moved from the forests to back yards, public parks, even city streets. Chronic browsers, they especially enjoy dining on lawns, shrubs and flower beds.

Wildlife experts estimate 750,000 deer live in Illinois. Although the overall herd hasn't dramatically increased in the last decade as it has in other states, the suburban deer population has soared, experts say.

A warmer reception

The often-emotional issue has pitted residents who don't want the animals shot against neighbors whose gardens and pricey landscaping have been eaten. Community officials are caught between the two camps.

Nearly 400 people joined a lawsuit last year against Highland Park after the city announced plans to kill 20 deer. The experiment in sterilization is getting a far warmer reception.

"The killing of deer [last year] tore apart the city, and it proved not to be effective," said Hillary Ross, who initiated the lawsuit. "This is a very progressive program that could become a model for other cities."

Last summer, Highland Park officials sought deer-culling proposals that wouldn't involve shooting any of the 90-plus animals that thrive in the community's wooded ravines.

The sterilization experiment proposed by Elizabeth "Bess" Franks, curator of large mammals at the Milwaukee County Zoo, although expensive, seemed like the best option, Councilman Pete Koukos said.

The cost of the program is $156,000 and could be $360,000 if it's extended to four years as expected, Koukos said.

Franks used surgical sterilization from 1990 to 1995 to manage a small herd of deer that had invaded the zoo.

Social groups

The key, she said, is to take advantage of the deer's biology. Females tend to stay in the same area and stick together, which makes them easier to target than bucks, which roam freely, Franks said.

"Female deer live in social groups and are all related, so hopefully if we sterilize the females and their daughters, the population will not grow," she said.

Highland Park is the only community in the state to receive a research permit to conduct a sterilization program, said Marty Jones, urban deer project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Highland Park hopes to catch about 60 deer, officials said. One group of 20 does will be sterilized; another 20 will be tagged and fitted with radio collars so they can be tracked, officials said. Twenty males will be tagged but not collared because the buck's neck swells during mating season.

The animals' movements will be monitored so officials can learn more about their population, social behavior and mortality rate, MacLean said.

Since late January, 49 animals have been tagged or collared and released, said Patrick Brennan, assistant to the city manager.

The deer are caught in nets baited with apples and raisins. A female targeted for sterilization is anesthetized, put on a stretcher and carried to the ambulance. After the operation, the doe is given a painkiller and an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection.

Other methods of deer population control have been attempted in Illinois with mixed results, said the DNR's Jones. For example, a hormone derived from a pig ovary has been used to sterilize one deer at a time.

"The difficulty is that each doe needs two doses in the first month and then a yearly booster, so this becomes very labor-intensive," he said.

Oral contraceptives hidden in fruit or clover also have been tried, without much success.

Capturing deer and relocating them is not allowed in Illinois and most other states because the mortality rate is too high, officials said.

In the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, where the deer population is estimated to be in the thousands, birth control isn't a workable option, said John Oldenburg, manager of grounds and natural resources.

Over the last decade the county has used sharpshooters--Oldenburg calls them a "necessary evil"--to eliminate 3,500 animals at a cost of about $650,000. Last year the cost per deer peaked at $500, he said.

The sheer numbers can be daunting, officials say. The U.S. deer population, found primarily east of the Mississippi River, is the highest in two centuries, according to Ron Labisky, professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida.

35 million again

During the early 1800s, roughly 35 million deer roamed North America, Labisky estimated. By the end of the century, the population had dwindled to 350,000.

"In 1901 there were zero deer sightings reported in Illinois," Labisky said, adding that they didn't reappear until 1951.

Thanks to its adaptability and the disappearance of natural predators--especially the wolf and the cougar--deer have made an amazing recovery, with the population again hovering around 35 million, Labisky said.

Although official statistics aren't kept, a recent study estimated 1.5 million accidents each year involve collisions between motor vehicles and deer, said Mike Conover, a wildlife biologist at Utah State University.

Labisky said the problem isn't going to go away.

"In the end there is no one generic policy that works," he said. "Every community habitat is different; every community's tolerance for the [deer] population is different."

Freelance reporter Marcia Sagendorph contributed to this report.
 

TNDEERHUNTER

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First of all that is a big waste of tax dollars. Hunters (safe ones) generate money they don't cost money. How do they think that they can keep up with the population of whitetails. If they did it would cost a fortune. 20 deer is just a drop in the bucket.
 

Don Tibbetts

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The people that conceive of these types of programs think they know what is best for everyone.  Regardless of how much it costs.
 


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