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Monday, March 19, 2018

With Private Money in Place, Deer Sterilization Program Still Faces Hurdles, Skepticism

In December, Fort Thomas residents presented checks totaling $4,380 from donors to the city to seed funding for a new deer sterilization program.

RELATED: Residents Raise Funds for Deer Control Project
RELATED: Donors Pony Up Cash, Deer Program Moves to Committee 

Resident Beverly Erschell, who handed over the checks to Mayor Eric Haas at the December council meeting, said a group of concerned residents came together over the fall months to research the issue of deer overpopulation in Fort Thomas. They decided on a plan that provided birth control to deer through contraceptive darts.

Currently, the City of Fort Thomas allows for bow and arrow hunting within city limits.

Council voted to allow the city to take private donations for the fund and referred the issue to the Law, Labor and License Committee.

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. 
"I appreciate very much everybody’s involvement in this," said Mayor Eric Haas at the December council meeting. "There’s more information we have to gather to figure out how to make this program work. (City Administrative Officer) Ron [Dill] has been investigating that…We are heading in the right direction."

At this month's committee meeting, Dill reported how the city would go about implementing the program, and that's when things became a little less clear for the future of the darting initiative.

"It's complicated because there are not a lot of programs out there to draw from," Dill started. "Darting has not had a widespread application so far nationally. In test groups there has been success, but there hasn't been a lot of long-term success because it becomes a political issue. You're not going to see a reduction in deer population in a short period of time. It's a slow reduction and a long-term commitment."

Dill said that this research brought him to the Science and Conservation Center, based out of Billings, Montana, who is the sole distributor of porcine zona pellucida (PZP), a natural sterilization enzyme that is used to make the sterilization vaccine.

"It's not as easy as just purchasing the darts from this company," he continued.

Dill said that for the program to work, according to officials at the Science and Conservation Center, darts would have to be administered to a deer twice in the first year and every year thereafter. On top of that, because there are no deer sterilization programs in Kentucky, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife would have to sign off on the program and those administering the darts would need to be trained by the Science and Conservation Center.

"The center said they have fielded a lot of inquiries, but have not had a lot of follow through. It's difficult state by state to get this approved," said Dill.

Hearing the potential roadblocks to the program, councilman and committee member, Roger Peterman, voiced his concern with the program.

"I want a full financial analysis of what this program is going to cost," he said. "I don't care if we get volunteered money."

Councilman Jeff Bezold, said that the hunting community would not hunt deer within the city if sterilization through darting were allowed. He estimated that hunter kill approximately 40-50 each season within the city.

"The hunting community will not eat deer that have been darted. They will stop harvesting deer because it's a chemical and they aren't sure what they would be eating," he said, noting that the venison could be used to feed the hungry through programs like Hunters for the Hungry.

"We're restricting ourselves by not maximizing the potential of other hunting programs."

Councilwoman, Lisa Kelly pointed out that the Humane Society has studied the issue and has found that there are no side effects of PZP to human or other animals.

"It's a natural protein extracted from pig ovaries, which makes antibodies that block fertilization," she said. "Feeding PZP to animals or people does not work. If it's eaten, it's digested safely. These programs do work. We have the funding in place from private citizens and I think we owe it to them that we study this. What's the worst that can happen?"

Bezold said that hunting community would favor measures that would include an expanded time period when deer could be hunted as well as "earning a buck tag."

"Earning a buck tag is better way to cull the deer population because hunting the female deer is what experts say helps cut down on the deer population. When someone comes to Fort Thomas to get a trophy buck, you could argue that actually doesn't do anything to add to the success of our archery ordinance and in fact, could be hurting it," said Bezold.

Still, Peterman was skeptical, who noted that he wanted to review studies that were relevant and scientific.

"I wish this program could work here. It's clear our current hunting ordinance isn't working. I'm afraid that further studying this program will waste staff time, especially given how futile this sounds."

Law, Labor and License Chairman, David Cameron asked Dill to start by talking with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife to see if they have any suggestions on implementation for the program. 

"We need to have them sign off on our program either way," he said. "I think that's a good compromise at this point." 

Dill will report his finding at the next council meeting. 

PHOTO: Deer graze on grass at twilight in Highland Park. Picture by Jay Fossett. 


  1. All this tells me that it pretty much boils down to manly testosterone and the "sport" of stalking and killing a terrified and defenseless animal. These guys want to get themselves a new deer head to hang on their wall and assuage their violence by saying they're doing good and feeding the homeless. I call BS.

  2. Mark, are you too busy to post comments anymore?

    1. Nope! But we get so many SPAM comments marked "anon" I must have missed it. Most of the conversation is on our social pages now, so feel free to add your comments there!