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Since the early 1900s, wildlife conservation efforts in the United States have focused on restoring, protecting, and managing populations of many wildlife species. In some cases, such as the white-tailed deer and Canada goose, these efforts have been so successful that these species have become locally overabundant. These and other overabundant species can cause a variety of conflicts with humans, ranging from minor nuisance issues to serious habitat and crop destruction, disease spread, and vehicle and aircraft collisions. Hunting and trapping have been the traditional methods fish and wildlife agencies use to manage wildlife populations. However in urban and suburban areas, where most human-wildlife conflicts occur, these management practices are often legally restricted, impractical, or socially undesirable. Wildlife contraception is one method—when used as part of an integrated approach with other methods—that can potentially help manage locally overabundant wildlife populations in these particular settings.
Scientists at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), are developing several wildlife contraceptives for use with overabundant mammal and bird species. NWRC—the research arm of APHIS’ Wildlife Services program—works collaboratively with State fish and wildlife agencies, universities, zoos, international organizations, and private partners to develop, test, and register wildlife contraceptives for use in wildlife damage management. Some of the products investigated have been employed previously in human medicine or in farm animal production. Others have been dispensed as vaccines or as oral baits. Regardless of origin, contraceptives are a promising new wildlife management tool. Contraceptives alone, however, cannot rapidly reduce overabundant wildlife populations to healthy levels. Instead, they may be most useful in specific and limited situations in conjunction with other wildlife management methods, such as hunting. Immediate population goals can be met only by removing problem animals. Contraceptives can then be used to slow the rate of population recovery in these managed areas. NWRC scientists strive to develop wildlife contraceptives that are:
Safe for the target species, nontarget species, and the environment
Free of undesirable side effects
Safe for human consumption if ingested while eating animal products
OvoControl® G and P—Oral Bait