Letter to Editor: Not that simple

To the Editor,

It is important to get the facts straight when considering the spread of Lyme disease. It was disappointing to read the editorial entitled “Oh, deer” in the Dec. 27 edition of the Mount Desert Islander. If I had not spent hours reading studies about the spread of Lyme disease and speaking with local biologists, I may have believed that killing the deer and turkeys on Mount Desert Island would help to eliminate the spread of Lyme disease. It is much more complicated than that.

The editorial claims that we have a large population of white-tailed deer on the island. How many deer do we have on the island? Exactly, what number constitutes a “large deer population?” How does our deer population compare in size to other communities having the same volume of traffic?

Are scare tactics being used in order to get the public to take some sort of action to reduce the deer population on an island that is home to a national park? According to a local biologist, the deer on this island give birth to twins. This does not happen when there is an overpopulation of deer.

Yes, there are car-deer collisions on Mount Desert Island. Car-deer collisions occur all over New England and the United States. Car-deer collisions even occur in areas that have hunting. I also often notice that drivers on Mount Desert Island are not observing the speed limit. Do we have a higher percentage of car-deer collisions here than anywhere else? I would like to see the data.

It is unfortunate that the black-legged tick is also referred to as a deer tick because that term creates a misconception that deer are the sole animal that spreads Lyme disease. In fact, most mammals and birds carry ticks. It would make more sense if the black-legged tick were called a white-footed mouse tick. According to the Cary Institute in the state of New York, “white-footed mice are the principal natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria. Ticks that feed on mice are highly likely to become infected, making them capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people during their next blood meal. When they feed on mice during their larval and nymphal stages, ticks are more likely to survive and molt. Ticks that feed on other vertebrate host species have a comparatively lower survivorship.”

I encourage anyone who would like to understand how Lyme disease is truly spread to please refer to www.caryinstitute.org.

If you are really serious about getting rid of Lyme disease, then killing the deer is not a solution. You would then have to kill all of the birds and most of the mammals on the island to effectively eliminate the ticks. It is doubtful that anyone in his or her right mind would want to do this.

Katherine Whitney

Bar Harbor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.