Publisher's Note: Deer, Lyme and us
I strongly endorse the Town Council’s decision to renew the appointment of the Deer Task Force. The fact is that deer cause the spread of Lyme Disease which remains a critical health problem here on Block Island.
A recent survey by the Deer Task Force revealed that 84 percent of those surveyed were concerned about tick borne diseases such as Lyme, and 78 percent supported significantly reducing the deer population. It appears that public awareness of the relationship between the deer and Lyme disease is growing and with it the public commitment to addressing the problem.
The Deer Task Force has called for expanding public education and expanding hunting. They have asked the council to:
1. Complete a joint management agreement with the Department of Environmental management for hunting in Rodman’s Hollow.
2. Pressure the U. S. Fish and Wildlife to approve hunting on its Block Island properties.
3. Get our state legislators to pass legislation to address property owner liability for hunting.
These are reasonable recommendations and should be pursued. On the other hand, they are but a beginning. Sooner or later the powers that be will have to find a way to pursue much more aggressive plans to deal with this public health menace.
Two surveys conducted in 2011 confirmed that the deer population on the island is 50 or more deer per square mile. A “reasonable” level would be 10 per square mile. We have far too many deer.
Lyme disease, and therefore the deer population, is a threat to public health and public safety. It follows logically that it also becoming a threat to our economy as a deterrent to prospective visitors.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me acknowledge that I have a personal stake in this issue, having just been diagnosed with Lyme disease for the fourth time. There are others I know of who have dealt with the disease multiple times and are equally frustrated.
There are no ticks or Lyme disease on Monhegan Island in Maine, where several years ago the deer herd was eradicated. For me, and others who have been affected by this disease, a program of complete eradication is desirable and eminently reasonable. On the other hand, we probably hold a minority opinion on the ultimate solution.
It does appear, however, that a growing number of my neighbors do want to do something about the deer. At this point I’ll take whatever progress can be achieved.