Nova Scotia town considering deer contraceptives after population explosion

Deer in yard karamysh/

They travel in gangs of ten or more, they wander into people’s yards, and locals joke that they look both ways before crossing the street. No, we’re not talking about human beings, we’re talking about the population of deer living in Truro, Nova Scotia—a population that has exploded in recent years.

The town has become so overrun with deer that it recently held a public meeting to discuss management options, including a method most of us don’t associate with wild animals: contraceptives. The idea is to administer hormonal birth control injection to the deer to prevent them from breeding. According to Mike Dolter, chief administrator of Truro, one veterinary professor has said it might even be possible to administer contraceptives by way of a dart gun, which would save the effort of capturing the animals.

Other options the town proposed for controlling the deer population included a controlled hunt, trapping and relocating, encouraging locals to plant gardens that don’t attract deer, and—as a last resort—a cull.

Male deer by roadside in Truro
Photo courtesy of Truro Daily
Seeing a deer walking down the sidewalk isn’t uncommon in Truro.

According to the CBC, locals’ reactions to the plans, and to the deer themselves, were mixed. “I just want them out of our lives,” said local Joan Randall, whose garden has been eaten by deer, and who supports a cull.

Another resident, Jeannie Samad, had a very different idea: “They’re only doing what deer do, they’re hungry. Why not embrace it and make it a tourism attraction with some feeding stations at the park?” Samad herself has already incurred a $200 fine for feeding the deer, a violation of a local bylaw.

The town finds itself in a difficult position with relation to the deer and public opinion. While options like contraception and relocation are accepted by the public, they can be costly and require a lot of resources. Meanwhile, the option of a cull is effective in reducing the population but is difficult for many people to stomach. As city councillor Danny Joseph told the CBC, “People love Bambi.”

The idea of using contraceptives is reminiscent of a similar idea put forth by the Vancouver Island community of Oak Bay, which also has an overpopulation problem.

“We’re just getting to the point where the population is getting so large that when you’re in Truro on a daily basis it’s very rare that you aren’t going to see a deer,” Dolter said, adding that the town will try to manage the deer first through trying to discourage them from spending time in residential areas. “We’re trying to encourage people to do smart things that will discourage deer from being in town and then we will look at where we go from there.”