Fertility control offers a potential alternative for controlling an abundance of wild ungulate populations where lethal methods are infeasible or unacceptable. A promising nonsteroidal, nonimmunologic approach to reversible contraception consists of agonist of gonadotropinreleasing hormone (GnRH). We evaluated the effects of the GnRH agonist, leuprolide, on reproduction, the suppression of luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone, blood parameters, and reproductive behavior in captive female mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) during December 1999 through June 2001. Leuprolide, administered as a controlled release formulation (ATRI-GEL®), was 100% effective in preventing pregnancy for one breeding season. Infertility was achieved by suppressing LH levels, which prevented ovulation and the formation of corpus luteum. Treated females regained normal ovarian function and conceived the following breeding season. Leuprolide had no adverse effects on blood chemistry and hematology, body weight dynamics, or the general health of treated females. In contrast to our predictions, leuprolide did not suppress estrous behavior in female deer during the “normal” breeding period, nor did treated females return to normal ovarian function and exhibit reproductive behaviors during the postbreeding period. This prolonged-release leuprolide formulation offers an alternative approach to reversible contraception in female deer that overcomes some of the problems associated with existing technology.

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