Why Fertility Control?
At earlier times in
history, wildlife populations were controlled exclusively
by two broad natural processes, mortality control and fertility
control. When animal populations exceed the carrying capacity
of their environment, animals die from starvation and disease
as well as predation. At the same time, high densities among
wildlife populations lead to a decrease in reproductive success;
animals delay the age at which they will first breed, they
produce fewer offspring, and juvenile mortality rates increase.
Urbanization and modern agricultural development led to the
destruction of predators, and regulated hunting and trapping
soon replaced the predators as population control devices.
Dwindling wildlife resources and encroachment of habitat led
to the creation of reserves, parks, and special legislation
that protect certain species from traditional lethal controls.
Examples might include wild horses protected by the Wild Free-Roaming
Horse and Burro Protection Act or elk living in a national
park where large predators no longer exist, or even zoological
gardens, where unregulated reproduction can lead to "surplus"
animals and massive ethical problems associated with the disposition
of these excess animals.
People have chosen to impose artificial human-induced mortality
control on wild populations, through regulated hunting, trapping,
and poisoning, and this is accepted as "normal"
human activity. In many areas of the continent, and with many
species, traditional human-induced mortality control will
continue to be the primary management tool. In recent history,
however, increasing urbanization, the withdrawal of private
lands from the public hunting domain, regulatory prohibitions
on the use of poisons, legislation against trapping, low fur
prices and, most important, changing public attitudes about
lethal wildlife control methods have reduced the effectiveness
of human-induced mortality control as a management tool for
many species. Thus, we now face exploding populations of some
adaptable or highly protected species but without adequate
management tools with which to save environment and animals
The use of human-imposed fertility control however, is still
viewed as "bizarre" or "unnatural", and
the reasons are not understood. It may have something to do
with the simplicity or relatively lower cost of mortality
control. Regardless of the answer to this question, we are
rapidly facing a point in time when a safe, humane and publicly-acceptable
wildlife management paradigm should begin to replace lethal
methods. The public demands it and the animals we have displaced