The deer-Lyme disconnect

In the first study, done on Great Island, Cape Cod, beginning in 1982, a reduction in the deer herd from at least 30 to less than 10 not only didn’t decrease the number of larval and nymphal ticks scientists found on the white-footed mice they collected, but seemed to increase them. It wasn’t until the herd was down to a lone doe that the number of ticks on the mice decreased significantly. At Crane Reservation in Ipswich, after the deer population was reduced from 350 in 1985 to 50 in 1991, larval and nymphal tick numbers did decline – but soon increased again to pre-hunt levels, “despite the vastly reduced deer density,” says Ostfeld.

Excerpted from ( Posted: 05/08/2011 ) 

Scott Brady had been in the big oak for only about an hour when he spotted his quarry. The wind was out of the southwest, and Brady, a stocky, round-faced 59-year-old ad salesman from Holliston, was well hidden among the branches 20 feet above the ground, sitting stone-still in a camo-covered perch called a climbing tree stand. He was dressed head to toe in camouflage that had been stored with pine boughs to obscure human scent, and he was so silent that the four deer never looked up when they emerged from a swampy area, nosing along the ground and, Brady says, “chewing some buds and bark and stuff like that.” The big female – Brady guesses she was about 2½ years old and 140 pounds – offered the best shot.

He slowly raised his Hoyt AlphaMax 32 compound bow, a contraption of cables and pulleys that he’d already loaded with a Montec broad-head arrow, the kind with a 1½-inch-long point of three razor-like blades. He drew back and released. The deer, he says, ran with “total abandonment for maybe, oh, 50 yards at the most and then just went down.”

Brady hunts because he loves it; he did it with his father and now does it with his children. He dresses the game himself and makes, as he did with this doe, sausages, salami, jerky, and steaks.

But this kill also had another purpose: It was part of a pilot program begun in Dover last fall that opened public lands to bow hunters to cull the town’s deer herd. Because everyone knows fewer deer equals fewer ticks, and fewer ticks equals less Lyme disease, right?

It’s actually far from clear.

There’s no question that Lyme disease, named for the rural Connecticut town where it was first identified in 1975, is on the rise. Nationwide, reported cases of Lyme – an acute inflammatory disease that can leave lasting neurological damage if not treated promptly – have tripled since 1992, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. There is particular cause for concern in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, which, after Delaware, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, has the fourth highest Lyme rate in the country, with 61 confirmed cases for every 100,000 residents in 2009, more than twice as many as in 2006.

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~ by Rob on May 9, 2011.

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