The failure of Cornell University’s “birth control for deer” experiment is an example of how traditional hunting practices are more sound than ideologically driven wildlife management decisions.
In 2009 the university’s main campus in Ithaca, New York, was practically overrun with white-tailed deer. While traditional deer management plans would include culling the herd through hunting, the university decided on a different approach. According to the Washington Post, the university bowed to anti-hunting sensibilities and decided to combine cost-effective hunting practices for off-campus deer with expensive surgeries for on-campus deer. A total of 77 does were captured and sterilized by tubal ligation at a cost of about $1,200 per deer.
While tubal ligation is an effective birth control method for humans, or captive animals, it doesn’t work so well on wild animals. Why? Because they move.
In fact, the sterilization had an unintended consequence: Because the does could not get pregnant, they entered heat month after month, and this brought more bucks onto the campus.
After all the time and energy spent on the program the number of deer slightly increased. Finally, in 2014, a program to remove “nuisance deer” was instituted that combined trapping with hunting by volunteer archers. At last count this far cheaper program was a success with the deer population dropping from around 100 to about 58.