NIH’s Solution to Campus Overrun With Deer: Give Them Ovariectomies

‘Humanely controlling the deer population’

• December 1, 2015 4:15 pm


The National Institutes of Health’s solution to too many deer roaming on its main campus in Maryland is to give them ovariectomies.

The agency is looking for a contractor to help the deer population problem on its 500-acre Bethesda headquarters, which currently has 30 to 40 deer running free.

The agency wants veterinarians to capture the female deer, put them under anesthesia, and surgically remove their ovaries to reduce the population.

"The purpose of this contract is to continue the work initiated last year to provide the NIH with wildlife expertise for the control of the deer population on the Bethesda Campus," according to the statement of work accompanying a solicitation issued by the agency. "The contractor will perform ovariectomies on adult female deer, provide tagging, and provide expert advice for humanely controlling the deer population."

"Additionally, the contractor will provide training of NIH veterinary staff in the performance of ovariectomies in deer," the document said. "In addition, the contractor shall be required to provide training in the use of dart guns to the NIH Police."

The agency said its headquarters has "few remaining open spaces suitable as deer habitat" and has never allowed deer hunting.

"The property is surrounded by high density residential and commercial development," they said. "There has never been hunting permitted within the NIH campus, and there are no non-human predators present that are capable of limiting a deer population."

The contract would require female deer to be anesthetized and "transported to a central location to perform surgical procedures – ovariectomy."

"All animals are administered a reversal agent and monitored during recovery," the agency said. "All surgically ovariectomized females will be treated for pain control as well as for potential infection."

Deer that are operated on will be returned to their habitat and will be marked with ear tags labeled "Do Not Consume."

The contractor will continue to capture and operate on deer in an around the campus for up to three years. The agency did not return request for comment regarding the status of selecting a contractor and whether any alternative methods to control the deer population were considered.

Deer hunting season in Maryland began on Saturday.