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J Wildl Dis. 2009 Jan;45(1):184-8.

Observations on the use of GonaCon in captive female elk (Cervus elaphus).

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  • 1US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Ave, Ft. Collins, Colorado, 80521-2154, USA.


Overabundant populations of elk (Cervus elaphus) are a significant concern in some areas of the western United States because of potential ecologic damage and spread of brucellosis to domestic livestock. Brucella abortus is transmitted among elk through direct contact with aborted fetuses, placentas and associated fluids, or postpartum discharge of infected animals. Because transmission of brucellosis is dependent on pregnancy, contraception of cows could be used for both disease and population management. The objective of this study was to evaluate the contraceptive efficacy of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone vaccine (GonaCon) in female elk. In September 2004, cows were given a single immunization of either 1,000 microg (n = 12) or 2,000 microg (n = 10) of GonaCon and compared with a group of adjuvant-treated controls (n = 15). In November 2004, 2005, and 2006, cows were grouped with bulls for the breeding season. Blood samples were taken in February 2005 and March 2006 and 2007 for pregnancy testing, progesterone assays, and antibody titers. For cows given 1,000 microg GonaCon the percentages that were infertile for 2005, 2006, and 2007 were 86%, 90%, and 100%, respectively, compared with 90%, 100%, and 100% for cows given 2,000 microg GonaCon. Rates of infertility for control cows were 23%, 28%, and 0% (P<0.0001). The results indicated that either dose of GonaCon prevented pregnancy of elk cows for at least 3 yr. We concluded that GonaCon use for population management of elk warrants consideration as part of a strategy to control brucellosis.

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