In 2011, after years of investigation into non-lethal
methods for co-existing humanely with whitetail deer,
Wildlife Rescue, Inc., funded a research program to
prove the efficacy of sterilization spaying of deer,
instead of killing them. Over these past 5 years we have
spoken with private citizens, communities, government
entities and the press throughout the United States
about our groundbreaking project.
One of those interviews was with WTOP reporter,
Michelle Basch. That interview led to the Humane Deer
Management group in Fairfax, VA asking us to do
presentations. From there the first non-lethal deer spay
project in the history of Virginia in Fairfax City was
put into motion and they just completed their second
year. Tom Jackman, a reporter for The Washington Post
did a series of articles about the Fairfax project. The
Humane Society of the United States issued a press
release where Stephanie Boyles Griffin, Senior Director
of Wildlife Response said: “We are proud to support
Fairfax City and applaud the city’s groundbreaking
efforts to develop and implement a humane, effective and
sustainable deer management program that everyone can
live with, including the deer...” Then from the HSUS
press release we received a phone call from Dr.
Charmaine Foltz, DVR Director of the National Institutes
of Health in Bethesda, MD inquiring about our deer
project. From that call NIH, the #1 institution in the
U.S. who looks out for the health and well being of the
American citizen, met with our principle researcher and
chose deer sterilization spaying over using any other
form of lethal or non-lethal deer management. And to
quote the NIH Record on Dec. 5, 2014 “After looking at
all options, particularly non-lethal methods, the NIH
identified the most effective approach that will manage,
stabilize and potentially reduce the population in a
long-term, safe, humane and socially and biologically
acceptable manner,” said Dr. Alfred Johnson, director of
the Office of Research Services.
It gets even more exciting because we have now accomplished what many said would never happen. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, approved surgical sterilization as a deer management technique and it is no longer research in Maryland. Both NIH and our Wildlife Rescue project, in February 2015, were done under the first ever Deer Sterilization Management permits. We want to thank the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife & Heritage division for having the courage and foresight to be the first state to permit sterilization as a management tool for deer population control.
Some of the major benefits we have found with
non-lethal deer sterilization birth control are less
browsing because the deer do not have the caloric
requirements of almost 7 months of pregnancy and 3
months of nursing fawns. Just like a pregnant woman eats
more for her baby, so does a deer. And even though they
still reside in the community, they keep out new deer
who would eat much more. In addition, the sterilized
female deer do not go into heat, so they are not chased
by bucks during rut, reducing deer vehicle collisions!
We know killing some deer is not going to solve the deer
issue, because you not stopping the remaining deer from
reproducing. Deer sterilization spaying is 100%
effective at stopping reproduction.
Since we started, non-lethal deer sterilization birth control projects have been done in California, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Virginia with more states to follow.
The Results and Researchers:
In 2011 we brought in top experts from across the
United States to guarantee that this research project
was conducted under the highest standard for success.
Dr. Steven Timm and Dr. Anthony DeNicola, PhD of White
Buffalo Inc. had recently established a protocol for
rapid ovariectomy using a direct surgical approach.
Their work involved the combined experience of Dr.
DeNicolas' team of researchers and the surgical and
field experience of Dr. Timm, and established a
technique to provide surgical (definitive) sterilization
in a field environment. Under the guidance of Dr. Timm,
our local veterinarians were also taught this rapid
ovariectomy procedure. A procedure that is actually less
intrusive than when a cat or dog is spayed since only
the doe’s ovaries are removed
February of 2011 – 1st Phase:
original goal was to sterilize 25 does in the first
year, but within days, we exceeded our own expectations.
We sterilized 33 does in the first stage of this study.
This alone will prevent the birthing of over 300 fawns
during the does’ eight-year reproductive life, and thus
exponentially continuing the reduction of the overall
Twenty-five percent of the does were first corralled
in a capture rotunda developed by the USDA to capture
and handle deer in a minimally stressing, extremely
humane way, which was safe for both the deer and
workers. The USDA drove it up on a trailer from Texas
for this field trial. The basic design of the rotunda
was developed entirely at the USDA lab in Texas. A
welding instructor and students from Boerne High School
designed, engineered, and constructed the trailer. As a
result, the students won over $52,000 in scholarships
and equipment for the school. Two of the students said
that without these scholarships, they would not have
been able to attend college. We discovered the rotunda
was not as safe and reliable in our cold climate and we
switched to remote immobilization darting techniques for
the balance of the deer that were sterilized. We would
like to thank the USDA for both their support and
participation of this project.
of 2012 - 2nd Phase:
Using only remote immobilization darting, we were able
to perform the rapid ovariectomy procedure on 17 more
does. The first 14 were sterilized in just a few days
and then 3 more were sterilized in an additional day
that was added over a week later. This was accomplished
with volunteer veterinarians, volunteer vet techs and
other local volunteer assistants under the direct
supervision of our principal researchers.
February of 2013 - 3rd Phase:
As in 2012, only remote immobilization darting was used
and we were able to perform the rapid ovariectomy
procedure on nine more does. The most interesting
challenge this year stemmed from the success of the
project. Now for every 10 does we observed, there was
only 2 who could be darted because 8 were already
sterilized. So it took a little more time and patience
to find a doe who had not been sterilized already.
February of 2014 - 4th and Final Phase As Research:
February of 2014 we completed last phase of our research
into non-lethal deer sterilization birth control.
Joining us for the first time was Stephanie Boyles
Griffin, Senior Director of Wildlife Response,
Innovations, and Services for The Humane Society of the
United States and Karen Lange, Senior Writer for their
HSUS Publications. Karen was reporting on our deer
project for her article in the May/June 2014 All Animals
magazine on humane wildlife fertility control.
As in 2012 and 2013 only remote immobilization
darting was used and we were able to perform the rapid
ovariectomy procedure on 9 more does with one additional
doe who had been shot with an arrow. Her injury brought
a different perspective to the project this year because
many of the people involved had never seen first hand
the damage that results from just being wounded by an
arrow. There were tears and shock at the infection and
suffering she must have been enduring. The veterinarian
did his best to relieve her pain and save her.
important component of each phase was to continue the
training and expansion of our volunteer staff to reduce
the overall cost per doe. We are most excited about this
level of volunteer support because their generosity
resulted in a significant reduction of the cost per doe.
Since this was the fourth year of our sterilization
research project, we were required to once again contact
at least 50 residents within a ½ mile of our site. They
were given the option to either sign their support,
opposition or indifference to the sterilization project
continuing in our community to manage the deer
population. We were very pleased when 90% signed their
continued support and told us over and over again how
beneficial our project was in terms of less browsing,
accidents and more.
February of 2015 - 1st Year Authorized As Management
In February of 2015, we were permitted to manage our
deer population in an open suburban community in
Baltimore County, MD using the non-lethal deer
sterilization spaying procedure. The MD DNR licensed
Deer Cooperator who was our original principal
researcher darted deer to immobilize them for the
veterinarians to perform the rapid ovariectomy spaying
We are now seeing natural mortality reducing the deer
population. It is sad to see some of our older does pass
away, but it would be much sadder to see them killed.
The contribution of observing them day in and day out to
show the major benefits of non-lethal deer sterilization
birth control proved invaluable. Benefits like less
browsing because deer do not have the caloric
requirements of almost 7 months of pregnancy and 3
months of nursing fawns. We observed spayed does eating
for significantly less time than pregnant lactating does
who ate up to 3 times longer. We observed how even
though they still reside in the community, they serve as
infertile placeholders who help keep out new deer while
consuming much less. We observed how sterilized deer do
not go into heat and they are not chased by bucks during
rut, reducing deer vehicle collisions! Our observations
confirmed lower deer populations can be achieved in a
humane manner without killing deer.
As with the research phases, we were overwhelmed with
the outpouring of volunteers who donated their time to
save the deer. This year we had 7 veterinarians, who
took time off from their practices and donated their
services. We would like to send a Very Special Thank You
to our “Deer Spay Team 2015”, Dr. Keith Gold, our
Principal Veterinarian who has volunteered every year,
Dr. Tamie Haskin and Dr. Karen Burks of Chadwell Animal
Hospital, Dr. Emily Reger, Dr. Danielle Anthony, Dr.
Joshua Woosley and Dr. Susan McDonough who volunteered
for almost every shift! Chadwell Animal Hospital's vet
techs Melissa Goodman, Claudia Johnson, Michelle Hull,
Sharon Sieck and Nicole Ruble. Volunteers Debbie LaTorre,
Matt Matthias, Meredith Callahan and Jean Ayers for your
untiring dedication year after year. We cannot do it
without you! And a special thanks to Brooke Bready
The success of this project is directly related to
the donation of these volunteer veterinarians, volunteer
vet techs and other volunteers.
2016 Update: Deer Birth Control Continues in MD
During the 5th year of our deer project in 2015 when we were permitted to manage our deer population using non-lethal deer sterilization, our principal researcher/cooperator suggested doing our project every other year given the challenge of finding does who were not already sterilized.
As the Board of Directors of Wildlife Rescue, Inc., we had to agree. It did make more sense to manage our deer population with sterilization every other year since we were continuing to see a limited amount of untagged does in the project area. We also had only observed a couple of resident fawns all year. That is until a group of orphaned fawns from hunting season showed up, but still putting us in a good position to wait.
Deer birth control continued to make more progress in Maryland with both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD using sterilization for a 2nd year and at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg. At NIST the Humane Society of The United States utilized the expertise of our principal researcher and veterinarians who had worked on our deer project in Baltimore County. Remote-injection tranquilizer darts were used for capture and 61 surgeries were done. Both NIH and NIST were done under MD DNR Deer Sterilization Management permits.
We look forward to continuing the success of our project and hopefully adding some new communities in Maryland now that the staff of the Humane Society of the United States are licensed to take on new deer sterilization and immunocontraception projects.
In other states, the 3rd year of the deer spay project by the Humane Deer Management Group continued in Fairfax City, Virginia and the 2nd year of the Spay A Doe Program continued in the Hamptons in New York. In addition, the first deer sterilization project in the history of Ohio was implemented in Cinncinatti by a very dedicated group who were determined to find a humane solution. Both the Virginia and Ohio groups have websites about their non-lethal deer sterilization projects, to learn more go to
the Board of Directors of Wildlife Rescue, Inc., we are
charged with a great responsibility to honor the memory
of our founder Gerda Deterer. A woman who devoted her
life to alleviating the suffering of wildlife. Her dream
was for people to co-exist humanely with the deer and
all wildlife. We would like to thank the Maryland
Department Of Natural Resources for helping us to honor
Gerda in a way she could only dream of.
In the past, farmers would drown kittens when they
were born to keep down the cat population. We no longer
use such barbaric ways to control birth rates, and now
spaying cats is common practice. All we want is to move
forward as a modern humane society in the same way when
it comes to deer and all wildlife. Because, even if
something is free of cost, it does not make it right or
socially acceptable to use it.
Wildlife Rescue, Inc believes the citizens of
Maryland in suburban residential neighborhoods where the
use of weapons are both dangerous and socially
unacceptable should be afforded the option to use
conducting this program in a residential community, we
are continuing our dedication of helping wildlife and
finding humane solutions for their co-existence with
Maryland citizens. While staying true to our mission to
help injured and orphaned wildlife, we will also
continue to research and educate the public about any
new non-lethal solutions that will protect our wildlife.
How Can You Help?
We receive no government funding. This project
occurred on private land and is 100% funded by Wildlife
Rescue, Inc. as a public service to the community and
the State of Maryland through donations. If you would
like to make a donation to support Wildlife Rescue, Inc
and/or the Non-Lethal Deer Program Fund, please click
the Donate button (below) and email us that your
donation is for the Non-Lethal Deer Fund.
For more information please call the Deer Birth
Control Project Line at