A number of years ago, I attended what can best be described as an upscale wedding in a fashionable, affluent Connecticut suburb. At the reception dinner, I was seated between two well-coiffured ladies who had no idea that I was a hard-core Maine deer hunter. Somehow the discussion got around to their state’s problem with an excess of white-tailed deer.

“I just don’t know what we can do,” one lady exclaimed. “They are so beautiful but they are eating all of our flowers and shrubs.”

“Yes, and they carry ticks that are infected with Lyme Disease, a problem that is getting worse around here,” the other lady said.

Each of them recounted that they knew of friends or neighbors who had contracted Lyme Disease. I mostly listened. These women then allowed that there was a solution: some sort of a scientifically-controlled contraceptive inoculation of Connecticut’s deer herd by wildlife biologists.

I jumped into the fray. “That can be awfully impractical, expensive and unreliable I have heard,” I offered. “Why not simply reduce your deer numbers by having a hunt?” I queried.

“What?” they exclaimed in unison. “Kill them?” Their facial expressions told the story. Raised eyebrows, big eyes and chins skyward. Suddenly, I was the proverbial skunk at the lawn party.

The conversation went downhill from there. Logic would not penetrate or persuade, and I was persona non grata at that table for the remainder of the dinner.

Flash forward.

Back in Maine, the town of Islesboro has voted to hold a firearms deer hunt, reportedly the first in its history.

Thanks to an excess of deer (60 per square mile), island residents have seen a drastic spike in ticks that carry Lyme disease. A recent article in the Portland Press Herald reported:

“But the island, just two miles from the mainland, will hold its first firearm hunt Dec. 10, when residents attempt to cull the herd on the 8,000 acres — or 12½ square miles — by themselves over the course of three weeks.

A dramatic increase in the number of Lyme disease cases on the island is leading residents to take matters into their own hands. They want to knock the herd down from as many as 60 deer per square mile to 10.”

Interestingly enough, Islesboro has allowed bow hunting of deer for years, but the hunting pressure and harvest rate was not enough to make a dent in the deer numbers.

Other Maine islands, that have excessive deer numbers will be watching the Islesboro “experiment.” It’s not rocket science. In 1998, Monhegan Island hired a sharpshooter to eliminate its deer herd at considerable expense. There, today, Lyme Disease is practically unheard of.

It’s too bad to kill off all of the deer. There should be, and can be, a balance. Too many deer means too many ticks, and, it is known, that the problem is exponential: the more deer and the more ticks the greater the percentage of Lyme- carrying ticks.

It is a vicious cycle that has been helped along, in Maine as well as Connecticut, by anti-hunting rusticators and ill-informed urban folks. The message needs to get out. Predation, by humans as well, is part of the natural order of things. Hunting deer, or any wild animal — including bears — is an integral component of effective, modern wildlife management.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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