Ethan Huff–The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reportedly approved for use an immunocontraceptive vaccine known as “Zonastat-D” that will soon be used to manage the population numbers of white-tailed deer.
The sterilization shot is the second of its kind in the Zonastat family, with Zonastat-H having been earlier approved for use in the control of wild horses. The Humane Society of the United States claims that Zonastat-H is already a “well established and effective” vaccine for wild horses, and authorities believe the same will be true for Zonastat-D and white-tailed deer.
The vaccine contains what’s known as porcine zona pellucida, or PZP, a substance that’s extracted from the ovaries of pigs and adapted specifically for use in white-tailed deer. In short, it triggers the production of antibodies that basically bind to the protein envelopes that surround female deer eggs, effectively barring fertilization from taking place.
So instead of having to shoot and kill white-tailed deer in order to keep them from overpopulating, wildlife management personnel can instead shoot Zonastat-D vaccines at the animals in order to sterilize them. And this sterilization shot is being called a “vaccine,” even though the Oxford Dictionaries defines a vaccine as a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies in order to procure immunity against disease – not to inhibit reproduction for depopulation purposes.
Field studies on Zonastat-D date back to 1993 when scientists from multiple universities first began testing it on deer in New York, South Carolina, and elsewhere. They basically shot the animals from afar with tiny needles that contained the vaccine, which they found had an 85 to 90 percent success rate. They further claim that the drug is safe for the animals and doesn’t pass through the food chain, suggesting that people can still eat these deer without issue.
“Adding this vaccine to the management toolbox enables wildlife managers to reduce populations gradually, often without resorting to lethal methods,” writes Wayne Pacelle for The Humane Society of America. “Sport hunting or sharpshooting management options are often considered unsafe, impractical, and unpalatable in many urban and suburban communities.”