Medfield’s deer culling program is doing “very well” in its early efforts to reduce Lyme disease in town by reducing the deer population, according to Chris Kaldy, Medfield Lyme Disease Study Committee chair.
“We feel the program is going very well,” Kaldy said. “We've taken deer, we have a solid group of hunters out regularly and the general mechanics of the program are working well.”
Kaldy said the program has “about 30 volunteer hunters” from Medfield and surrounding towns that have helped make the program a success in its first full-month. While hunters have been successful in taking deer from the various hunting parcels around town, Kaldy said the volunteers are also facing some challenges early in the season.
“The challenge is the deer aren't moving much yet this fall,” Kaldy said. “The warm weather and lack of acorns are factors. As for improvement in the next few weeks, we're expecting the deer will become more active, which normally happens with the change to colder weather and start of the rut – the deer mating season.”
Kaldy confirmed deer have been taken over the first-month of the program, but would not release details into how many at this point in the season.
“We will release the number of deer culled at the end of the season,” Kaldy said. “Deer have been taken from most of the various hunting parcels around town.”
However, Medfield Selectmen chair, Osler "Pete" Peterson, shared some insight to the amount of deer taken on his blog, "Medfield 02052."
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that the deer culling has been hugely successful thus far, and a lot of the hunting season remains," Peterson wrote. "Eighteen deer have been culled so far, one less than the 19 Dover got in its whole first year of deer culling a year ago. More bucks than does have been taken. The deer are reported to be covered with hundreds of ticks."
The parcels around town being hunted are the Trustees of Reservations properties: Noon Hill, Medfield Rhododendrons and sections of . Various town-owned parcels have also been selected for the program.
Kaldy said the overall response to the program in town has been positive.
“Comments received have been strongly in favor of reducing the deer,” Kaldy said.
The Lyme Disease Study Committee suggested the deer-culling program to the Board of Selectmen last February as the most effective solution to address and reduce Lyme disease in town. The selectmen agreed and approved the program in April. Deer season opened on Oct. 17 and hunters, by bow and arrow only, came to Medfield to help reduce the deer population in town to ultimately lower the risk of the disease.
Sonja Christensen, a deer biologist and project leader with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said deer carry blacklegged ticks, which carry Lyme disease. Simply put, reducing one will reduce the other.
“From a biological perspective, what we can say is – decreased deer equals decreased tick population equals decreased risk of infection,” Christensen said.
Kaldy noted ticks have been “especially abundant this fall.”
“I just learned from Dr. Sam Telford, the entomologist at Tufts Vet School, who studies ticks and tick-borne diseases, that the adult deer tick population this year is ‘3-5 times what we've seen over the past two years,’” Kaldy recalled. “We've no illusions that this pilot program is going to make a dent in the tick population, but it's been shown that bringing the deer population down to a healthy herd level brings the tick population down. So a consistent effort over time will make a difference.”
In addition to the town’s controlled hunt, the Lyme Disease Study Committee will continue to educate residents on how to protect themselves from Lyme disease.
“We will continue and expand our educational efforts on how to protect oneself from ticks and tick bites as well as on how to recognize Lyme disease,” said Kaldy. “We will continue and expand education about the means to make tick safe zones on personal property and recreational properties in town.”
The program has also provided the town with additional benefits selectmen and Lyme Disease Study Committee members did not expect.
“In this process of placing hunters, we have removed a large number of illegal hunting stands around town,” Kaldy said. “This is another positive outcome of our effort, to reduce if not eliminate the illegal and potentially unsafe hunting that's been taking place.”
Medfield’s deer culling program runs through Dec. 31.