Killing deer without data is bad decision
I urge my fellow residents to become more familiar with the Jamestown Tick Task Force. It meets again on Wednesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. at the library.
I thought the task force was formed to look at ways to reduce the number of ticks on the island. At its second meeting, I learned that culling Jamestown’s deer herd would be a recommendation. Members devoted most of their time discussing how to “sell” the idea to residents because Lyme disease is so pervasive.
Curious to see the data, I asked the panel to produce it. When none was given, I suggested conducting a community survey. On March 17, the task force told the council that obtaining such data was impossible even for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, labeling the survey as a waste of time. At the task force’s meeting two days later, it expressed concern that survey data might keep the panel from “acting.”
If the data doesn’t exist, then it must be obtained. The extreme solution to kill the deer requires data establishing that Lyme is pervasive. Moreover, if you don’t know where you are today, how can you ever determine if you have fixed the problem in the future?
The CDC publishes data on Lyme disease for each county dating back to 1992. According to their figures, the number of verified cases has actually dropped since 2008. In Newport County, here are the number of cases in five-year intervals: 95 cases from 1992-1996; 131 from 1997-2001; 83 from 2001-2006; and 41 from 2007-2011.
These numbers don’t indicate that Lyme is pervasive in Newport County. However, the data does coincide with Dr. England’s observation that Lyme had remained about the same between 2011 and 2012 (Jamestown Press, Sept. 27, 2012).
If there is no proof of the Lyme epidemic, then the “solution” to cull the deer herd must be abandoned. Dr. Mather said in August 2013 that personal protection is the best way people can avoid deer ticks. He also said killing deer to control ticks will be a “nonstarter” in Jamestown. People are not always willing to do the simple things to stay safe, Mather said, and eradicating the deer would not be realistic, even if the politics did not polarize the community (Jamestown Press, July 18, 2013).
Deer extermination is a nonstarter for other reasons. If data shows Lyme victims “were unaware or unwilling to do the simple things to stay safe,” then education, not deer eradication, is the answer.
A video of a deer headshot using the same method as “professional hunters” will be enough for many residents to oppose the idea, including myself. (Google “Robert Farago British slo-mo headshot” to see the graphic video.)
Killing the deer herd will embroil Jamestown in litigation filed by animal rights groups, recreational hunters and others. It is a nonstarter because most residents will not permit hunting on their property. Taxpayer money is better spent implementing proven, noncontroversial methods to reduce the tick population.
The Tick Task Force needs to take deer extermination off the table and head in another direction.