Letter: Don't blame deer because ticks carry disease

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While I truly hope The Forecaster plans to cull 100 percent of John Balentine’s column, instead of, as he suggests, culling 90 percent of Maine deer (think of the ecological and economic impacts), I defer to Dr. Richard Ostfeld, a director of The Tick Project (www.tickproject.org), who graciously offered me his insights into Balentine’s latest utterly misplaced nonsense (“Here’s Something: Cull deer to limit Lyme disease”):

“Mr. Balentine is advocating an action that is both infeasible and unlikely to impact the numbers of Lyme disease victims in Maine. His column simplifies the life cycle of the blacklegged tick. When making a radical suggestion like killing 90 percent of Maine’s deer (interesting to imagine how that might be done) and promising ‘corresponding’ results with the tick population, it’s important to get the science right. Research in New England shows that when deer abundance is reduced, adult ticks crowd onto the remaining deer, so that there is little if any decline in total ticks on deer. The immature ticks (larvae and nymphs) feed predominantly on much smaller mammals, such as white-footed mice and chipmunks. Our studies in upstate New York show that Lyme disease risk is correlated with abundance of mice, but not with abundance of deer. Deer do not infect the ticks with Lyme disease bacteria, but mice and chipmunks do. Some Centers for Disease Control scientists recently reviewed the scientific literature to ask whether culling deer reduces cases of Lyme disease. Short answer: No.”

Kris Eric Kucera
North Yarmouth

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