The Board of Selectmen has approved a proposal by the Lyme Disease Study Committee to try to control Medfield deer population and resulting high rates of lyme disease.
“The selectmen gave them the authority to proceed with the play so hopefully we will start to have fewer deer in town and less incidences of lyme disease as a result of it because we just have way too much lyme disease in Medfield,” said Osler "Pete" Peterson, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen.
“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 Christine Kaldy, Chairman of the Lyme Disease Study Committee. “We will continue and expand education about the means to make tick safe zones on personal property and recreational properties in town. We will be starting a program to manage the deer population in town by strictly regulated and monitored bow hunting on appropriate state, town and privately held lands.”
The “controlled hunt” by bow and arrow has proven to be an effective way to decrease a high deer population like that in Medfield, said Sonja Christensen, a deer biologist and project leader with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, at a public forum organized by Kaldy in February.
Christensen said that successful culls have also taken place in neighboring Dover as well as Acton, Andover, Boxborough, Braintree, Brewster, Concord, Duxbury, Lincoln, Marshfield, Stow, Sudbury, and Wilbraham.
Christensen said there is no “silver bullet” to reduce the number of deer or Lyme disease incidents in Medfield but added, “From a biological perspective, what we can say is – decreased deer equals decreased tick population equals decreased risk of infection.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, blacklegged ticks (which carry the disease) live for two years and have three feeding stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. Tick eggs are laid in the spring and hatch as larvae in the summer. Larvae feed on mice, birds, and other small animals in the summer and early fall. When a young tick feeds on an infected animal, the tick takes bacteria into its body along with the blood meal, and it remains infected for the rest of its life.
After this initial feeding, the larvae become inactive as they grow into nymphs. The following spring, nymphs seek blood meals in order to fuel their growth into adults. When the tick feeds again, it can transmit the bacterium to its new host. Usually the new host is another small rodent, but sometimes the new host is a human. Most cases of human illness occur in the late spring and summer when the tiny nymphs are most active and human outdoor activity is greatest. Adult ticks feed on large animals, and sometimes on humans.
In the spring, adult female ticks lay their eggs on the ground, completing the life cycle. Although adult ticks often feed on deer, these animals do not become infected. Deer are nevertheless important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations.
The Lyme Disease Study was appointed by the Board of Selectmen in July 2010 to learn the best way to reduce the incidents of Lyme disease and to make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. For more information, contact the selectmen’s office at (508) 359-8505 ext 641.