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Aggressive Deer Dissuasion: Effective Solutions

Lyme disease and human health

[The mouse is the primary host of the deer tick. Putting tick killer into cotton balls that the mice carry back to their nests has been used to eliminate the tick.]

There is disagreement among specialists about the relationship between deer populations and Lyme disease. There are no studies that show unequivocally that removing a number of deer will lead to a permanent decrease in Lyme disease. Experimentally, this approach has had some results in limited areas, for short time periods, but it is not a solution for larger areas and longer periods of time. It is extremely difficult to completely eliminate deer from an area. When deer numbers are merely reduced, the number of ticks per deer often increases.

It is even possible that removing deer, rather than decreasing Lyme disease, has the opposite effect since a number of potential hosts have been removed. Deer ticks are not host specific, any warm-blooded animal can serve as host. When deer are removed from an area, the ticks attach to other mammals, including humans. Since any mammal can carry an infected tick, the killing of one species does little good. Rodents, especially the deer mouse, are ready hosts and far more numerous than deer. Cotton balls treated with insecticide and carried by mice back to their nests has been effective. Of those people who have contracted Lyme disease, few had physical contact with the deer. Since ticks do not jump, it can be assumed that they obtained the tick from something other than a deer.

Taking preventive measures and being aware of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease continue to be the best ways of reducing risk. Simple precautions such as wearing protective clothing, applying an insect repellent, examining oneself for the presence of a tick after being in fields or woods, showering or bathing after outings, avoiding these tick-heavy areas in June and July are effective ways of avoiding the disease.

If a tick does carry Lyme disease, it must remain on the skin for a period of at least two days in order to pass on that disease. A top clinic has found that 77% of Lyme diagnoses were wrong (New York Times, 6/15/93). It is incorrect to conclude that killing deer prevents or decreases the incidence of this disease.

If deer are to be addressed at all in the effort to control Lyme disease, then non-lethal methods again prove superior. Research suggests that the black-legged tick population could be reduced to low levels in three to five years if 95 percent of the ticks could be reduced on 90 percent of the deer ( K. Stafford, 2001). One of the most promising ways to achieve this is through the "4- Poster Feeder" which delivers an acaricide called Amitraz to the neck of deer when they come through to feed on corn. Such success in tick reduction could never be achieved through hunting.

Go on to: Deer damage to residential landscaping No more salad bars!

Wildlife Watch, Inc.
(845) 256-1400
wildwatch@verizon.net
www.wildwatch.org  

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