Safe-Sex for Deer is good for everyone

Feb. 24, 2016, North Adams, Mass. - In the last installment of the Green Living Seminar, Allen Rutberg talked about how controlling animal populations can be good for both nature and humans.

As director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy, which is part of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Rutberg has conducted extensive research on using injectable contraceptives to control deer populations.

“In the grand scheme of things, I like the idea of injectable contraceptives, and the ones that we use in particular, because it’s relatively benign, it’s noninvasive and it leaves the deer out there being deer,” Rutberg said.

Rutberg and his team used the PZP vaccine during their research. This vaccine is derived from pig ovaries, and is widely used as a contraceptive in zoo animals, bison and horses.

Rutberg explained that deer can easily flourish in urban areas and their populations can get too high. This can have a negative impact on humans with things like car collisions, the overeating of plants and even the spread of lime disease.

According to Rutberg, during his research he’s seen the positive effects that PZP has had.

“When there was half as many deer, you didn’t see them out during the day. They were fat, they were well groomed and made everybody much happier,” Rutberg said.

This year’s Green Living Seminar theme is “Living with Wildlife,” which is something Rutberg touched upon during his lecture by talking about his visits to communities struggling with deer population. During this time of research, he developed an interesting notion.

“I realized pretty early on that the biggest issues weren’t between the people and the deer, but the people and the people,” Rutberg said. “It’s become clear to me that these community controversies over deer were really proxy fights over fundamental views of nature and human relationships with nature.”

Rutberg noted that there are many different views on how people should interact with nature. One view is that if nature is left alone, all will work out. Another view is that humans must actively try to control nature in order to restore the balance that has been disrupted by human activities. Of course, the issue is not black and white, so there are people with many opinions in between.

“All these different…value systems are expressed in the deer and wildlife conflicts, and as I say, these [frames] and value systems lead to different ways of thinking about what [you should] do in response to any sort of wildlife conflict,” Rutberg said.

Originally published in the MCLA Beacon on Feb. 24, 2016

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