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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Population Modeling of Prairie Dog Contraception as a Management Tool


Recently, wildlife contraception became a reality with the registration of OvoControl for geese and pigeons. A data submission to the Environmental Protection Agency for the registration of GonaCon™ for white-tailed deer is forthcoming. The question that is now facing wildlife managers is if, and how, to implement contraception as part of an overall management plan. Population models offer a method of predicting the long-term efficacy of management actions without investing time and money in expensive field studies. Black-tailed prairie dogs were used as a target species for the purposes of these models. Four different management options were modeled for a 100-year period including no control, lethal control only, fertility control only, or a combination of lethal and fertility control. Yearly culling resulted in a more rapid rate of population decline than yearly contraception. Culled populations (50-90% culling) went extinct more quickly than populations contracepted at the same rate. Populations could be stabilized at their current size with 12.79% yearly culling or 33.25 % yearly contraception. Populations also remained relatively stable over 100 years when 50% of the population was culled initially, followed by 85.8% contraception once every 3 years. These models will help provide a scientific basis for further discussion on the usefulness of wildlife contraceptives, and will help highlight the areas that need further research.

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