Originally developed by the USDA as a non-lethal form of pest control, GonaCon works by lowering the concentration of sex hormones in the bloodstream to weaken fertility and the urge to mate. The contraceptive was recently approved in Maryland and New Jersey for curbing the population of wild deer. Now researchers are hoping to use GonaCon to stop the spread of brucellosis, an infectious bacterial disease that causes pregnant ungulates to abort their calves.
Needless to say, the Buffalo Field Campaign isn't thrilled with the idea. They refer to the USDA study as "an experiment in population control" and wonder why wild bison remain the emphasis for brucellosis management.
Meanwhile, the USDA is conducting an environmental assessment to help determine whether the GonaCon study should move forward.
The assessment is scheduled to wrap up by early January, and the results will be made available for public comment. If approved, work could begin this spring—around the time a new generation of bison calves tests their wobbly legs.