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


Date of this Version

October 2002


Published in THE WILDLIFE SOCIETY Technical Review 02-2, 2002.


Huge flights of Canada geese turn off local park visitors with their messy, smelly "business cards." The superabundant white-tailed deer we love to watch also can do a number on your car at night and host the ticks that carry Lyme Disease. Blackbirds and gulls and coyotes and other critters bring their own problems when their numbers get out of hand.

Most such problems reach their highest profile in urban/suburban areas where traditional animal-control techniques such as hunting and trapping are frowned upon or illegal. More and more people are calling for wildlife managers to use "fertility control"–-but is that concept really feasible on populations of free-ranging wildlife? The definitive answers–in the form of the latest science–are contained in a new Technical Review titled Wildlife Fertility Control. The 29-page Review notes that in the past, fertility control has been far less successful than observers had hoped, but thanks to new findings about animal reproductive systems, the technology is advancing rapidly and is being tested on several species on a small scale. Hurdles include the need to develop and commercialize effective vaccines or baits, cost-effective delivery systems, and public-agency acceptance of the technique.

The new publication states that "birth control" will undoubtedly play a role in the science of wildlife management in the future. Managers face two major challenges: integrating contraceptive tactics with more conventional ways of managing critter numbers, and giving the public accurate information about the feasibility of using fertility control vs. lethal methods to reduce populations of deer and other long-lived species.