November 15, 2018

Blaming Numbers of Deer on Lyme Tick Increase is Dishonest

An online news article states that Vermont now leads the nation in reported cases of Lyme disease. The same report blames this on an “overabundant deer population.” The same report claims that the ideal deer per square mile, in order to “control” ticks, would be 20 per square mile. Other than a few isolated areas, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont don’t have that many deer.

We understand that deer are a source of a “last blood meal” for the ticks’ survival and perpetuation, it is not the only source. Surely, reducing actual “overabundance” of deer populations would contribute to the reduction in tick prevalence and thus Lyme disease infection rates, it appears as though, with information being given that shows low density deer populations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the deer is becoming a convenient scapegoat. Perhaps there are other agendas at work here.

If the intent is to reduce the prevalence of Lyme disease, how about providing some honesty in scientific research.


Counting Deer: Count Bucks, It’s Kind of the Best Way…Sort of…Maybe

When NPR asked a New Hampshire deer biologist how they went about guessing how many deer the state had, the answer was…well, it was…actually, I don’t know what the hell it was. But the response went like this:

For deer, this is the two-year running average of the adult buck-kill. That’s kind of what we use as an index to the trend in the population. That’s kind of the best index we have.

And that’s it? Go figure. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong but I have a strong suspicion that deer hunting in New Hampshire, and probably Maine and Vermont, generate the most income in order to fund each state’s fish and (no game, just) wildlife departments. And, this is the best explanation a deer biologist from New Hampshire could come up with to explain how counting deer is done.

Is it important to know how many deer each state has? Geez! I would think so. If you don’t know, how do you know how many deer should be killed each year? Is this one of the reasons deer populations in Northern New England are struggling? Maybe. Ask any biologist though and they’ll probably say it’s being caused by global warming. But let’s not get into that.

One might conclude that New Hampshire’s “model” of guessing is pretty pathetic. What it sounds to me that they do, is count the number of adult bucks harvested during the hunting season for two consecutive years. They use that data to somehow wave a magic wand and then after repeating the “magic” incantations, guess how many deer there are. That’s sad…isn’t it?

If you think that’s sad, then how damned sad is it when a state can’t even count to know how many adult buck deer were taken during a deer hunting season? That’s beyond sad. It’s down right pathetic.

As of this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), has not posted on their website the harvest numbers from last November’s deer hunting season. God, we’ve all been down this road so many times, but nothing ever changes.

Some have asked me what difference does it make? I think it makes a lot of difference. Seriously, do I need to explain why? But forget what I think or whether you care. If Maine uses anything like New Hampshire’s methods, and they count adult buck deer killed to guesstimate deer populations, how can they responsibly manage deer – like how many “Any-Deer Permits” to issue if they can’t count deer?

So, I can only guess what is going on. Either MDIFW is terrible at managing deer or they won’t release the deer harvest numbers because they are hiding something. What else could it be? And, as an aside, MDIFW hasn’t posted the bear harvest data either.

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.