To the Editor:
Lyme disease comes from deer ticks. Deer ticks spend a crucial part of their life on deer. Eliminating, or at least dramatically reducing, the number of deer will reduce and perhaps end new cases of Lyme. That much seems clear.
The well-written and informative article by Peter Brannen in last week’s Vineyard Gazette documents some of the work by Matt Poole and others to lead our Island community through the learning process. It behooves all of us to learn all we can about this insidious disease, and at the same time we should be asking a lot more questions about the deer.
White tail deer lived here for thousands of years but were essentially wiped out by the farmers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were only re-introduced during the twentieth century by hunters so hunters would have them to hunt. Fallow deer (smallish deer with very large antlers) were also introduced mid-twentieth century for the same purpose, but they eventually died out.
The Department of Natural Resources has done a wonderful job of managing the Island deer population to offer the largest possible kill each autumn. No kidding, if we think of deer as a farm crop and the DNR as the farmers, it is hard to imagine they could do a better job. The problem comes when we as a community change our priorities and begin looking at the deer as disease vector instead of a sport.
It is time to consider the possibility that our collective good health is more important than having deer to hunt. I believe it really is past time and that we should take the extreme step of declaring all deer pests, and allow them to be shot by anyone at any time. Of course all the usual safety measures should still apply, but there are plenty of hunters still on Martha’s Vineyard who would make quick work of the bulk of the deer herd.