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


Date of this Version



Wildlife Society Bulletin 35(3):149–160; 2011; DOI: 10.1002/wsb.17


We evaluated the health effects of GonaCon™ Immunocontraceptive Vaccine in individual white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on a fully fenced corporate office campus in suburban New Jersey, USA. We captured and vaccinated adult females, fawns of both sexes, and yearling and adult males, and evaluated their health status through field and necropsy observations, assessment of blood chemistry, and histopathological examination of selected tissues. One 1.0-mL intramuscular injection of vaccine was delivered by hand to the hind limb of each GonaCon-treated deer. Control deer received sham injections (ad F) or no injections (yearling and ad M). Mean body-condition scores of GonaCon-treated adult females and males were greater than those of corresponding control groups. No evidence of limping or impaired mobility was noted in study deer during the 2-year study. No adverse effects of vaccination were detected in major organs, organ systems, body condition, fat deposits, or blood chemistry. Injection-site lesions (granulomatous nodules and sterile abscesses) occurred in the deep hind-limb musculature of >85% of GonaCon-treated and sham-injected deer but were not detectable externally. Reactions at injection sites and in lymph nodes were typical responses to injection of vaccines formulated as water-in-oil emulsions, especially those, like GonaCon, that contain mycobacteria. The formation of injection-site lesions may be a necessary component of the immune response that causes infertility in treated animals. Natural resource managers who use GonaCon to manage deer in settings such as developed areas and public parks will ultimately determine its value and applicability.