U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 42(4): 718–722, 2011


Eastern gray squirrels (EGS) (Sciurus carolinensis) damage trees through bark stripping or gnawing due to territorial marking or agonistic gnawing behavior in concert with higher densities. This study was conducted to determine the effects of a contraceptive vaccine on EGS and its reproductive organ histology. Free ranging urban EGS were vaccinated with the immunocontraceptive GonaCon™. All EGS were ≥6 mo. of age as determined by a combination of pelage characteristics and body weights. The vaccine was administered by injection at a dosage rate of 0.4 ml containing 400 μg of GnRH-mollusk protein conjugate i.m. in the thigh to 33 EGS (17 male [m], 16 female [f]) in trapping session 1 (TS1), 23 (14 m, 9 f ) in trapping session 2 (TS2), and 11 (8 m, 3 f ) in trapping session 3 (TS3). A sham injection containing 0.4 ml saline-AdjuVac™ was given as control to 22 EGS (16 m, 6 f ) in TS1, 20 (12 m, 8 f ) in TS2, and 8 (4 m, 4 f ) in TS3. In the last trapping session (TS4), 35 EGS (16 treated, 19 control) were killed for necropsy to evaluate histologic changes in testes and ovaries. Treated EGS males had testicular, prostatic, and epididymal atrophy compared with control EGS males. The tubuli seminiferi and prostatic glandular lumen of treated EGS males were atrophic, and the epididymal lumen contained no sperm cells. No histologic changes were observed in treated EGS females; however, females likely were not collected when changes due to GonaCon™ would have been observed. There were no observable histologic differences in the pituitary gland of treated and control EGS. There were no statistically significant differences in either testosterone or progesterone concentrations between control and treated EGS. Although there were no serious side effects to the vaccine, six EGS developed injection site abscesses. GonaCon™ may be a potential tool for EGS population control.