BAR HARBOR — Anyone who spent any time in the woods this past summer or fall knows there were roughly 10 bazillion deer ticks out there.
Those are the tiny ticks that carry a variety of illnesses, the most common of which is Lyme disease.
According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 1,231 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Maine through the first 10 months of this year. Ten percent of those cases were in Hancock County.
Elected officials in municipalities that make up the Acadia-area League of Towns decided at their annual meeting in October that addressing the problem of tick-borne diseases should be one of the league’s areas of focus in the coming year.
Last Tuesday, members of the league board discussed some preliminary ideas with Al May, Downeast Public Health District liaison with the Maine CDC.
May said the Maine CDC occasionally works with health sciences graduate students at the University of Southern Maine to conduct tick and tick-borne disease training sessions for municipal code enforcement officers and health officers.
“It’s about a three-hour course that covers tick biology, the diseases they carry and how to protect yourself against ticks,” May said. “We could certainly set one up [for towns in the MDI area] in the spring.”
He and members of the league board suggested the workshop could be open to towns’ public works employees and possibly to professional landscapers and gardeners.
May said the league also might think about holding a forum to educate the public about ticks and the diseases they carry.
“At a panel discussion we had a few years ago, we had a pediatrician, a veterinarian, a Lyme disease expert and someone from [the University of Maine] Cooperative Extension,” he said.
May and league board members also discussed the possibility of providing small, plastic tick-removal spoons to the public, along with instructions on how to use them.
“If you use it right … it has been found to be really good,” May said. “It just goes underneath the tick and pops it out.”
May said people have tried spraying pesticides to eradicate ticks, but that is rarely effective.
“When you look at the massive area they’re in, pesticides are just not going to work. You can maybe spray a small area, such as around your yard. But these guys move around, so you’re not going to get them all.
“There’s no central place where you’re going to find the ticks all meeting and having a good time.”
May said reducing the deer population in a given area also is less effective than many might think.
“Yes, the deer are part of the system. But the white-footed mouse is actually where the tick first hits and where the disease comes from. The deer and turkeys and other animals are just transporters.”
And he noted that the wild turkey population in Maine has greatly increased in the last couple of decades.
League of Towns board members said they would continue exploring ways to combat tick-borne diseases at their January meeting. May said he would provide whatever information and assistance he could.
“Lyme disease is a chronic disease, and it can do some terrible things to you,” he said.