September 27, 2020

Best Available Guessing

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Most like to call it “Best Available Science.” I prefer to recognize it as cherry picking what best fits the plan of garnering monies and promoting agendas. However, perhaps we can call efforts in making decisions in wildlife management as best available guessing.

Case in point: In an area of Connecticut officials are setting up study areas in hopes of learning more about the best ways in which to reduce or eliminate ticks that carry Lyme disease. It seems that there is some disagreement over how many deer live in the area.

The “official” counting method has determined that within the four study areas, there are approximately 29 to 30 deer per square mile – a high amount when it is considered that the management goal is around 10 deer per square mile. However, an independent effort at counting deer, has determined there to be 7.42 deer per square mile.

Is this significant? Well, when you consider that the effort to control ticks has evolved into reducing the number of deer to accomplish that task, I think it might be safe to say that those differences of estimated deer populations are highly significant and detrimental to arriving at reliable data from any study.

Bill Hyatt, bureau chief of the bureau of natural resources for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said, “The counts we’ve been doing are accurate to the level we need them to be.” I’m not sure I understand that statement. Two things that scientific studies depend on are constants (control) and accurate data from within the control area. Without these how reliable does any study become?

If a proposed theory is that the density of the population of deer is a driving factor behind the spread of Lyme disease, it only seems prudent that a count of deer must be highly accurate and not “accurate to the level we need” it to be. To make that statement, in my mind, is saying that deer densities from two different counts showing a wide disparity in numbers isn’t an issue of concern. I think it should be. There are other influencing factors that can become part of the overall equation depending up deer densities to begin with. Are those being calculated? How could it be if they don’t know the population density to begin with?

To further complicate this study and effort, in addition to having to question any results determined from this study, are the results of recent studies that birds may be the biggest factor of all in the spread of ticks that carry Lyme disease. Can you accurately determine the effect of deer on the spread of Lyme disease if birds within these four study areas are contributing to the spread?

We all must question whether or not best available science is being used here in making decisions in wildlife management and disease control. If methods used to count deer end up with such vast differences in outcomes, then how can any method be anything more than best available guessing? Or is this another one of those studies whose main purpose is to grab grant monies and/or tax dollars to keep people employed with the government?

ReddingCT

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