Letter: Tired of Lyme Disease?

By David Streit


The incidence of tick related diseases is on the rise in CT  This is the direct result of an overabundant deer herd. The most recent DEEP deer density survey taken on January 2012 suggested that Fairfield County had approximately 76 deer per square mile.  That is an increase from 64 deer per square mile 2 years prior. 

Communities that have successfully restored deer densities to 10-12 deer per square mile have experienced a drop in Lyme disease of 95%. Ticks simply fail to breed when deer are spread too thin for the ticks' high reproductive feeding needs. Other towns have appealed to DEEP for similar help in achieving this same disease-preventing level of deer reduction but so far to no avail. So what is standing between public health and high deer densities? 

DEEP wildlife regulations! Deer are protected for 7 ½ months out of the year by the hunting season. If the DEEP were to allow private landowners to remove deer on their own property year round these deer numbers could be brought under control by motivated landowners. Why should landowners be forced to play host to deer 7 ½ months out of the year when they pose a lethal threat to our children? Hundreds of thousands of tick eggs drop from a single deer each year as it grazes on our plants and vegetables in our back yards. No sooner have the deer fed overnight and in the morning in our yards, dropping thousands of tick eggs and our children go out to play.

In addition, many of these ticks are now carrying co-infections that can be more serious even than Lyme disease. Our public health and safety is at increasing risk.  We need to make it safe for kids to go outside again to hike and play rather than be forced to stay indoors dependent on electronic devices each day. Perhaps the DEEP could be encouraged to include humans as part of the environment they are paid by taxpayers to protect. 

Please call Daniel Esty at 800-424-3571 or email him at Daniel.Esty@ct.gov and tell him that you support private landowners being permitted to remove deer year round on their own property until deer are restored to 10-12 deer per square mile.  Your call counts.

Lorna August 18, 2012 at 03:09 PM
David, thank you for bringing this to our attention. You don't even broach the subject of the medical and financial aftermaths of car accidents from deer collisions. Clearly the deer population needs to be drastically reduced. I'm in favor of the action that Princeton, NJ officials took several years ago of baiting a protected area and using sharp shooters with silencers to thin the herds at night. Also, I wonder what long-term effects the practice of spraying one's yard to deter ticks may cause. I can't help but think that many beneficial insects, such as bees and other pollinators, are killed by this. Has the spraying contributed to the decline of the bat population, in addition to the fungus affecting them? Yes, the deer are lovely to look at but their numbers have gotten way out of hand. Hunters should be allowed to have a longer season, and town officials need to band with others and be more proactive on this public health issue.
Natalie Jarnstedt August 20, 2012 at 09:20 PM
There's no need to disseminate myths about Lyme disease and deer numbers. Let's not allow facts to get in the way of truth! There is absolutely no proof, anywhere, that the ideal number is 10-12 deer per square mile! Only recently, 12-16 was advanced...which is it? Peer-reviewed scientific studies have been offered time and time again, but NO, real science has no place with those whose single agenda is deer slaughter, no matter what. There is no direct correlation between deer populations and ticks. Scare tactics like this are meant to frighten people into becoming deer haters, afraid of their own shadows, blaming everything including hangnails on our resident deer. If anyone should be chastised for higher deer numbers, it's our DEEP; their deer "management" spurs deer reproduction, and managed to raise deer numbers in the state since the passage of the Deer Management Act in 1974, when deer numbered at about 3,000 in the whole state. Hypocrisy rules, as usual, when it comes to do "wildlife management", when in fact "game management" is practiced, at the expense of less desirable game species in CT.
Natalie Jarnstedt August 20, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Do legitimate/peer-reviewed scientific studies not play a role in this? It has been proven, over and over, that therer is no correlation between deer numbers and Lyme and associated diseases. Black-legged ticks may use deer as desirable living quarters, but in their absence, they will seek other small to medium sized mammals, including us! Furthermore, deer actually destroy the underbrush habitat in which ticks thrive...so, one could say that deer are helping in the elimination of ticks! When a deer is killed, ticks do not automatically die, do they? And where do they go after leaving "a sinking ship, as rats do"? Ticks jump off into underbrush or on any other living being that happens to come by... Areas that have higher deer numbers, such as Fairfield County, have fewer cases of Lyme disease than Windham County, where deer numbers are lower - how is that explained?
Peter August 21, 2012 at 02:22 AM
What we really need to be "safe" from, is propaganda from FCMDMA, that will not withstand the scrutiny of ordinary, common-sense reasoning. FCMDMA members focus on exploiting Lyme disease because, as they have discussed themselves, "Lyme captures the public's attention." There is no evidence that any Fairfield County town has meaningfully reduced their deer population through hunting. And there are other CT counties that have lower deer "densities," but higher incidence of LD. FCMDMA propaganda depends on the public not listening too closely.
Alexander Davis September 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Deer are the source of 95% of tick eggs without which there would be no ticks. Ticks from one deer produce up to one million tick eggs per season. They do not all survive to adulthood because if a tick can't find a host it dies. Similarly ticks from a dying deer will die if they do not find a host. Removing deer means less hosts for the egg-laying adult ticks.
Natalie Jarnstedt September 13, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Mr. Davis, If you did your homework, you would learn that deer are NOT the only host for the Last Supper! ANY mid-sized mamal, including you and your dog, can be and are legitimate hosts for a tick that wants to gorge itself with that fanal meal before dropping off and laying all those lovely little eggs that feel like silk! The tick my die if it doesn't find a host, even other than a deer, but it's unlikely when so many other mammals are available. If deer were the ONLY host, how would you possibly explain Lyme disease in areas that have no deer? As for statistics on deer populations on LD incidents in Faifield County v. Windham County in CT, let your fingers do the walking for a bit of reserach; I promise you, you will not be disappointed! Peter has stated the same!
Natalie Jarnstedt September 13, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Lorna, are you aware that Princeton has never actually solved the "problem" because they have been culling deer for so many years, making it necessary to continue ad infinitum. As Tony DeNicola of White Buffalo Inc. was once quoted in Princeton, once you start hunting, it's like mowing grass - you will have to continue...... If you feel that the lovely deer numbers have gotten out of hand, blame DEEP "management", avail youself of backgroud info, such as the passage of the 1974 Deer Managament Act, and you will see that there's no one else to blame BUT the DEEP.
Alexander Davis September 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
You have yet to provide any evidence that the role of deer can be replaced. As I said, deer are the host for 95% of the adult egg-laying ticks. When the deer are eliminated, the tick density goes down as does the rate of tick-borne diseases. An example is Monhegan Island Maine. There are occasional ticks there dropped off by migrating birds, but they cannot reproduce since the deer have been removed. Other animals like dogs and cats can host the adult deer tick but these play a minimal role.
Peter September 14, 2012 at 04:53 PM
When deer, as a "preferred host" are reduced or eliminated, the remaining ticks enter an intensified "questing" phase and look for a replacement host, of which there are many. In suburban areas, the most likely would be our dogs (or, ourselves). This is why LD incidence can rise after a hunting program is implemented. Also, remember that during the hunting process, ticks drop off as the corpse cools, so they are not necessarily "eliminated" from an area along with the deer that is killed.
Natalie Jarnstedt September 14, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Mr. Davis, I don't have to do anything. I have all the studies at my fingertips, but you will never be satisfied because you choose to ignore studies that don't support your own views! Peter is absolutely correct! People think that killing deer also kills the ticks - it does NOT. Ticks are like rats on a sinking ship - they leave. Therefore, there will be many more ticks ready to take a flying leap onto any warm body that happens to come by, even yours!
Natalie Jarnstedt September 14, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Mr. Davis - this is all I am going to post, because there's no end to your arguments which make no sense! The American Lyme Disease Foundation does not advocate for deer killing programs to control the spread of Lyme. Ticks feed on 50 different species of mammals - including you! Studies found the elimination of deer actually caused tick "hot spots" or high concentrations of ticks on small areas of land. Other wildlife such as rodents brought infected ticks into the area resulting in tick concentrations. ("Localized Deer Absence Leads to Tick Amplification" by Sarah E. Perkins et. al., Ecology, 2006). A Senior Scientist from the Cary Institute of Ecology writes: A comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the relationship between numbers of deer and numbers of ticks reveals the majority of studies find no statistical correlation... deer do not infect ticks with Lyme bacteria, and actually reduce the infection prevalence in tick populations;” Richard S. Ostfeld, Ph.D., Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System (2010, Oxford University Press).
Amo Probus September 14, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I miss the wild turkeys. We use to see 20-25 walk through several times a week. Now, all I have is a beverage. I also miss the fish that lived in the nearby town pond that has since filled in with debris and become choked with fertilizer enriched algae. They don't maintain it. Sad really, makes me want to reach for that beverage all too often.


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