Reducing Deer Herds Lowers Risk of Lyme Disease and Auto Accidents

Red deerAccording to researchers in Connecticut, reducing deer populations in residential communities and neighborhoods reduces the chances of residents contracting Lyme disease.

“The Relationship Between Deer Density, Tick Abundance and Human Cases of Lyme Disease in a Residential Community,” a study conducted over the course of 13 years, was executed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division in the small Mumford Cove and Groton Long Point communities. The findings were recently published in the July issue of the Journal of Medical Entomology.

At its peak, the deer herd in both communities averaged approximately 80 deer per square mile alone. The herd was significantly reduced by volunteer hunters using compound bows, crossbows, shotguns, and bait on three tracts of public land. In order to allow hunting, both communities were required to do away with their no-hunting ordinances.

“Reducing deer density to 5.1 deer per square kilometer resulted in a 76 percent reduction in tick abundance … and 80 percent reduction in resident-reported cases of Lyme disease in the community,” according to the study.

Lyme disease is a highly infectious, bacterial disease contracted by the bite of an infected tick. Though early symptoms, such as headache, fever, and fatigue are non-life threatening and may appear mild, left untreated, the disease can spread to the central nervous system, joints and heart.

In regards to handling excessive deer populations in urban/suburban communities, the study is considered “a game changer,” according to Bernd Blossey, associate professor for Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources. Blossey oversaw a project at Cornell that reduced the campus’ population by 53 deer during the past two winters via bow hunting.

The central New York city of Syracuse is also wrestling with a deer population within its city limits, especially in the Syracuse University area, as the eastern portions of the city. A combine city and county task force has been assembled in order to deal with the population, which is now at 40 deer per square mile in some areas of the city.

Aside from increasing the risks of contracting Lyme disease, excessive deer populations can lead to increases in auto accidents and collisions involving deer. In fact, Syracuse isn’t the only city in New York state grappling with large populations of deer. Drivers in the Empire State have a slightly higher chance of be involved in a deer collision or accident than the average driver in the United States, according to statistics recently released by State Farm Insurance Co.

The odds of a New York state driver striking a deer within the next year is 1 out of 154, slightly above the national average of 1 in 169, according to the study. New York is ranked at 26th in the nation for the most deer collisions.

As such, drivers are encouraged to keep their vehicles in good working order through routine maintenance. Brakes, headlights, and safety features such as airbags can lessen damage related to deer related accidents and collisions.

On average, brake pads have an average life span of 30,000 to 70,000 miles when properly maintained. It is especially important to have high-performance brakes in deer prone areas, such as New York state. The difference can save you thousands in repair costs and personal injury.

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