Update from Municipal Health Director, CT

December 23, 2015

…..Here in the Nutmeg state, our deer population got out of control, particularly in Fairfield County (next to NYC). We have over 2K auto/deer collisions a year statewide. As a municipal health director, I receive approximately 400 Lyme disease case notifications per year; in a population numbering 20K. This is greater than any other reportable communicable disease. My knees and wrists know all too well the aftermath of Lyme, having contracted it twice. Most of us now carry a tick removal tool on our key chains. Needless to say, we have utter disdain for the Eastern whitetailed deer, the whitefooted mouse and the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis).

Safety and public health issues aside, probably the most devastating is the destruction to the level of browse of woodland undergrowth and the damage to Eastern Connecticut’s agriculture, particularly orchards and nursery stock. The woodland destruction is so extensive that there are no oak, ash, cedar or hickory saplings. The maple/oak woods behind our home is bare of any young trees; thereby allowing the unrestricted growth of brambles … several varieties, each worse than the other. Two years ago, the (hypothesized) insult to the forest ecology from deer overpopulation resulted in no acorns being produced. The deer population density and lack of food resulted in the re-absorption of deer fetuses and numerous starvation deaths. We also saw the introduction of wasting disease. While you may think that the stress on the deer population is a good thing, we also see a marked reduction in coyote, fox, wild turkey, woodland songbirds and predators’ morsels such as white-footed mice and voles. There is no stability. We go from one extreme to the other.

When I was the biological safety officer on Plum Island, we had to dispatch deer because of the threat of disease transmission, particularly foot and mouth disease. However, the more deer that were destroyed, the more swam from the Hamptons to Gardner’s Island to Plum. We spent about $40K annually (out of my budget) on APHIS hunters. I too managed to dispatch a few with my M1 carbine when I was duty officer and had to spend the night on the island. In short, we are harmed more by deer overpopulation than by ISIS.

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