To the Editor:
Like Dr. Dawson, who wrote in support of the efforts of the Bar Harbor Deer Task Force and the proposed deer management plan in last week’s Islander, I also attended the Oct. 7 town council meeting and public hearing. I was similarly alarmed by the level of science denial and misrepresentation of facts around deer, ticks and Lyme disease.
Information presented by the task force and available on their website notes numerous studies from varied habitats that support the contention that reducing deer numbers reduces tick numbers and cases of Lyme disease.
The task force was accused of cherry picking these studies; nothing is further from the truth. The work of one scientist, Dr. Rick Ostfeld, was cited as contradicting the consensus opinion of the Center for Disease Control that decreasing deer will decrease risks from ticks. Dr. Ostfeld does indeed have an extensive body of work connecting Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease pathogen carried by ticks, to small mammals such as mice.
However, his work does not contradict the consensus; it instead concludes that deer reduction should be considered as part of an overall management plan toward reducing risk for these pathogens. I’m all for this.
We have always lived with deer on MDI. Do we have more deer than we had 30 years ago? I do not know. But the big difference is that deer ticks carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, as well as other serious tick-borne diseases, continue to spread into Maine. This is why the incidence of Lyme and related tick-borne diseases in Maine, including MDI, is alarming and certain to get only worse.
The major economic driver of MDI is its visiting tourists, many of whom have no idea of the risks that deer ticks pose and danger signs of infection. Inaction puts the island economy, and more importantly, the health of ourselves, friends and visitors at risk.
This is an emotional issue. People who do not want to see deer killed have every right to hold that opinion. However, that sentiment needs to be weighed against the very real and increasing increase in tick-borne diseases and its serious impact on human health.
Deer boost tick populations and their range because they are the preferred host of adult, breeding-stage ticks. The science supports deer reduction as the only current, actionable way reduce these risks, with added benefits of decreasing car-deer accidents and property damage caused by deer.
I support reducing deer numbers in Bar Harbor by adopting the proposed management plan.