Researchers at the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory at Colorado State University are working to perfect two short-term birth control methods that may eventually be injected by dart into wild animals such as elk, providing options for managing wildlife overpopulation in protected areas across the country.
Wildlife overpopulation plagues state and national parks across the nation and world, with overcrowding from bison, deer, elk, wild horses and other species causing damage to native habitat and impacting the diversity and abundance of other species that share the same space.
"Hunting and culling have traditionally been used to regulate animal numbers in the wild, but other approaches that meet public approval are needed in parks and urban areas where these methods are not feasible," said Dr. Terry Nett, a Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. "Controlling the fertility of female mammals may eventually prove to be an effective alternative for population control, but more testing is needed before this goal can be realized."
One approach, a drug called leuprolide which is used to treat endometriosis and fibroid tumors in the uterus, has been shown to be 100 percent effective as a contraceptive in mule deer and elk for one breeding season. A vaccine called GonaCon may provide contraception for two to three years and is 75 percent to 90 percent effective.
Research at Colorado State University into wildlife fertility suppression over the last 10 years has included partnerships with the National Wildlife Research Center USDA/APHIS, Colorado Division of Wildlife, National Park Service and the University of Wyoming's School of Pharmacy.