Forums » Deer Ticks, Lyme Disease & CWD

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    • May 6, 2014 7:55 AM EDT
    • Have you sprayed your clothes with Peritherum? that will keep them off your clothes

    • May 6, 2014 7:44 AM EDT
    • Those are good tips. I've been deer hunting for 24 years and suffer severely from Lyme disease. Everybody that knows me calls me a tick magnet cause it doesn't seem to matter what precautions I take I still get them on me. I can't seem to stay out of the woods, I love it to much.

    • April 25, 2013 7:38 AM EDT
    • April 24th, 2013


      Tips to help keep you and your family tick free

      [b]GOSHEN[/b] – As spring brings warmer weather, residents will begin venturing outdoors again. For those of us in the Hudson Valley, this can also mean the chance of exposure to deer ticks and the diseases they can transmit.

      Lyme disease continues to be the most common tick-borne disease in the region and a focus of many public health awareness efforts. Unfortunately, over the past decade the region has also begun seeing other, potentially more serious, tick-borne illnesses, including babesiosis and anaplasmosis (formerly known as ehrlichiosis) that have started taking hold in the Hudson Valley.

      While the numbers are still relatively small compared to the incidence of Lyme disease, both babesiosis and anaplasmosis can present with high fevers and symptoms which can easily be confused with other severe illnesses. Fortunately, all of these illnesses respond to the appropriate choice of antibiotics, so diagnosis as early as possible is key.

      Avoiding a tick bite in the first place is the best line of defense and critical to the prevention of Lyme and other tick borne diseases," said Dr. Jean M. Hudson, Orange County Commissioner of Health. "After spending time outdoors, it’s important to do a thorough tick check of yourself, your children, and your pets."

      To prevent tick attachment, remember these important tips:

       Check yourself frequently when spending time outdoors. Do a thorough tick check daily, especially checking around the face and scalp, neck, chest, armpit, waistband, groin area, and behind the knee.

      Avoid high-risk locations, such as the edge of wooded areas, and shady or moist habitats.

       Use repellent containing DEET.

      • Wear light colored clothing - it makes spotting ticks easier.

       Stay in the middle of the path when hiking through woods or grass.

       Create an area for children and pets to play away from wooded areas, stonewalls, and woodpiles.

       Keep the yard clear of leaf litter, brush, and similar debris as these create areas where ticks like to hide.

       Trim bushes and mow fields – ticks don’t like direct sunlight.

       Avoid stone walls.

      Take the proper precautions and you truly can enjoy the many opportunities to spend time in Orange County and the Hudson Valley.

    • November 26, 2013 11:06 AM EST
    • : Ticks can be threats even in winter

      byline">[url=]Jerry Davis For Capital Newspapers[/url]</span>

      In Wisconsin, about two in five deer ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

      Deer ticks are probably the last thing gun deer hunters were thinking about Saturday morning, while sitting on a seat cushion on the ground, fighting 30-mile-an-hour winds.

      But unless there is snow on the ground, there may be one of those tiny arachnids crawling among the hunter’s orange cloth fiber clothing. And that tick could be carrying Lyme disease.

      Ticks do show up more easily on this orange background than a grouse hunter’s brush pants.

      “If there is no snow on the ground, there is the potential for deer ticks to be active, any place in the state,” said Phil Pellitteri, University of Wisconsin-Madison entomologist and deer hunter. “Usually it has to be somewhat sunny and about 40 degrees.”

      While some locations and regions of Wisconsin provide better habitat than others, the thicker the understory the better tick habitat.

      “Infectivity rate of adult ticks runs about 40 percent, or 2 in 5 ticks are carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease,” Pellitteri said.

      Prophylactic treatment of one day’s antibiotic treatment is now recommended by the Centers for Disease Control if the person is in a state where the infectivity rate is above 20 percent and the tick has been attached for 36 to 48 hours.

      Some hunters get concerned when handling a deer that have ticks that are dropping off, but Pellitteri said the risk is much greater from the ticks that are in the brush. Ticks that have been feeding are not like mosquitoes that go from human to human.

      Deer hunters who are all bundled up in heavy clothing are not necessarily danger free from tick bites and therefore Lyme disease.

      “Some fabrics are better at providing something to cling onto. Wool certainly is. Some of those ticks can be brought indoors on clothing, then crawl off and crawl onto someone’s skin,” Pellitteri said. “I’ve had deer ticks brought into my laboratory in the middle of January when there has been a 50-degree day.”

      If deer movement is slow in the woods, spend a few moments looking for smaller animals, like ticks, crawling on your pants. They may be the same ticks that spent a few days catching a ride on the next deer that walks past your deer stand.

    • April 20, 2013 7:29 AM EDT
    • Tips to keep deer ticks at bay
      By Jennifer Heshion | Apr 20, 2013

      Although it may not seem like summer is on it's way, soon the warm weather will have residents exploring the great outdoors. But, before you put on your hiking boots or play with your kids in the backyard, it's best to be cautious of pesky deer ticks that can transmit Lyme disease, says student nurse Carley Lakritz.

      If contracted, the disease is a bacterial infection that can, among other things, cause fatigue, joint pain, and even problems with your heart or nervous system.

      Being prepared and knowing how to take action is half the battle, said Lakritz, who is currently working with the Marion Board of Health.

      “The highest prevalence for contracting Lyme disease is in the summer months,” Lakritz said. “There are a lot of deer and ticks in this area.”

      In 80 percent of cases, a red ring-like or expanding rash from the center of a bite will appear. This is known as a “Bulls eye rash,” Lakritz said.

      Symptoms can include a fever, muscle aches, headaches, swollen lymph glands, fatigue, mild neck stiffness, facial paralysis, chills, and joint pain.

      In some cases, symptoms may not appear until weeks or years after the initial infection. These symptoms can include arthritis, recurring joint pain and swelling, severe fatigue, nerve pain, meningitis, and cardiac problems.

      “The effects can be felt years after the initial infection,” Lakritz said.

      There are several preventative measures residents can take to keep deer ticks at bay, Lakritz said. These include keeping grass cut short, removing leaf litter and brush from around the yard, pruning low lying bushes to let in more sunshine, and keeping woodpiles and bird feeders off the ground and away from the house.

      Lakritz also urged residents to use pest control products on plants.

      As for personal prevention, Lakritz said residents should check themselves for ticks daily, wear long-sleeved and light colored shirts, and stick to main pathways and trails when hiking.

      Pets should also be checked daily, Lakritz said.

      “Pets can carry ticks which can then come off the pet and onto a person,” Lakritz said.

      If a tick is found on someone, Lakritz said it’s best to use pinpoint tweezers to pull the tick off and to contact your primary physician.

    • April 4, 2013 9:38 AM EDT
    • [b][size= small]Yes, you read that right: One of the best ways to make sure that Lyme disease-carrying ticks aren’t clinging to your clothing after you do yard work or go for a walk in the countryside is to first tumble your clothes on high heat in the dryer and [i][/i]then wash them.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]And that’s because the stubborn little suckers don’t drown, but they do bake.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]While the [url=]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[/url] (CDC) recommends drying your clothes for an hour as a precaution, a clever Massachusetts teenager has discovered that a much shorter amount of time will also kill ticks — a good thing to know as summer [url=]Lyme disease season [/url]approaches.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]The [url=]Boston Globe reports[/url] that 16-year-old Jacqueline Flynn found that even five minutes on low heat will work. Her project has won some top science prizes and attracted the attention of the CDC.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]According to the Globe: “This could have significant implications for Lyme disease prevention,’’ said Christina Nelson, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s office in Fort Collins, Colo., who became intrigued by the teenager’s finding. “If it is true that five minutes in a dryer kills ticks versus a full hour, that is a lot easier for people, and that could also spark further investigations.”[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]Tick expert Thomas Mather, Ph.D., of the University of Rhode Island and its[url=]TickEncounter Resource Center[/url], told Boston radio station WBUR’s [url=]CommonHealth blog[/url]  that a fairly quick spin in the dryer can kill nymphal deer ticks that carry [url=]Lyme disease[/url]. Washing, even in hot water, will [i]not[/i] kill ticks, he emphasized — only dry heat will.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria transmitted by a tick bite, can cause fever, headache, aches and fatigue. If left untreated, it can spread to the joints and the heart. There were 22,000 confirmed cases in 2011, the CDC says, although the agency estimates there were probably closer to 35,000. The disease is most common among boys ages 5 to 9, and adults ages 40 to 65.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]Here are some of the TickEncounter Resource Center’s tips:[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]Dry first, then wash. After being outside, especially if you live in tick-infested areas, immediately take off clothes and throw them in the dryer. Deer ticks are most susceptible to drying, while American dog ticks, lone star ticks and other Amblyomma species are more robust. To be sure that each species achieves fatal crispiness, leave clothes in the dryer on high for 15 minutes.[/size][/b]

      [b][size= small]Add 5 minutes for electric dryers. In the center’s study, gas dryers got hotter than electric dryers, so you might want to add five minutes to the tumbling time if you own an electric dryer.[/size][/b]

    • April 1, 2013 9:09 AM EDT
    • Braintree teen’s tick study makes CDC take notice
      Work could update Lyme disease prevention tips

      BRAINTREE — Jacqueline Flynn knew she was on to something, when, one by one, the ticks began to die. The science sleuth had been holed up in front of a clothes dryer for hours, watching and waiting as small mesh bags full of blacklegged deer ticks whirled.

      How long can ticks resist heat before perishing? she wondered.

      Not long, it seems.

      That discovery by the 16-year-old Braintree High School student has won top local science prizes and has caught the attention of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s massive health watchdog.

      <div class="ad aside" data-adname="CENTRAL" data-adname-complete="true"> </div>
      As part of its tick prevention recommendations, CDC literature urges tumbling tick-infected clothing in a dryer on high heat for at least an hour as one way to eliminate the bloodsucking arachnids. But the agency had not studied the method further.

      Flynn’s work concluded that it should take only five minutes at low heat.

      “This could have significant implications for Lyme disease prevention,’’ said Christina Nelson, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s office in Fort Collins, Colo., who became intrigued by the teenager’s finding. “If it is true that five minutes in a dryer kills ticks vs. a full hour, that is a lot easier for people, and that could also spark further investigations.”

      The CDC’s attention has surprised Flynn, who began her research as a project for her 10th-grade science class. She had only stumbled upon the heat experiment after trying to figure out how to adequately remove ticks from her own clothing.

      “I’m really surprised,’’ said Flynn. “I didn’t realize it would go that far.”

      Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States. More than 22,000 people were afflicted in 2010, according to the CDC.

      The bacterium is passed via tick bites onto people trekking in woodsy areas. Massachusetts is one of 11 states — along with Maine, New Hampshire, and New York — with the nation’s highest confirmed Lyme disease cases, the CDC said.

      Flynn initially thought of testing organic methods to kill deer ticks. But after collecting ticks in the Blue Hills, she worried that she had them all over her clothes and wondered if there were ways to get rid of them quickly.

      She considered washing her clothes but discovered that that would not be enough. She then stumbled upon a recommendation by the CDC.

      “When I saw the one-hour recommendation I thought, that sounds crazy to me because they are such small animals with such small surface areas that it should take less than an hour to kill them,’’ she said.

      Flynn ordered 50 ticks from a Oklahoma University lab. She placed them in small mesh bags and threw them in the dryer — letting them whirl at temperatures ranging from 180 to 130 degrees. She found that even on low heat for five minutes, all of the ticks were dead.

      “I found her experiment to be fascinating after she came downstairs and . . . said ‘I can’t keep these animals alive for more than five minutes,’ ” said her father, Patrick Flynn. “I knew something was up, because there was a massive discrepancy between what she was finding and what the widely published recommendations are.”

      Patrick Flynn began talking up the experiment to his friends and co-workers. Soon word spread on blogs, in the local paper, and around Braintree. She contacted the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, where a parks official promised to share her findings with staff.

      Jackie Flynn was a first place winner at her high school’s science fair and came in second in the regionals. The state science fair will be held at MIT in May.

      “None of us really appreciated how poorly understood this was,’’ said Stephen Ribisi, Flynn’s science teacher. “I’m very proud of her. I played a very small role in this. But I’m tickled to have her as a student. This doesn’t happen very often in a teacher’s career.”

      Among its recommendations, the CDC urges repellants, showers immediately after being exposedto ticks, and a full-body check to prevent tick bites.

      Recently, Nelson and two tick experts from the CDC called Jackie Flynn to discuss her experiment. All were impressed with Flynn, her methodology and findings, Nelson said.

      Nelson cautioned that much more research and testing need to be done before the CDC can recommend the low-heat treatment. For one thing, Nelson said that Flynn’s experiment only included adult ticks, but nymph ticks, of the younger variety, transmit disease and cause more of the illness because they are smaller and harder to detect.

      Flynn will need to work with local researchers to expand and replicate her experiment, and find collaborators who will test lower amounts of heat in a variety of situations. The findings must be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal before it can be seriously considered, Nelson said.

      Still, she said Flynn’s work is exceptional. “It’s very exciting,’’ she said. “It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t happen very often. It’s great preliminary information.”

    • March 27, 2013 9:55 PM EDT
    • Samples taken from North Dakota deer during the 2012 hunting season have all tested negative for chronic wasting disease, according to Dr. Dan Grove, wildlife veterinarian for the State Game and Fish Department.

      Last fall, samples for CWD testing were taken from more than 1,300 deer harvested by hunters in the western third of the state.

      “As always, the success of our surveillance program could not be accomplished without the cooperative efforts of hunters, meat processors and taxidermists,” Grove said.

      Since the Game and Fish Department’s sampling efforts began in 2002, more than 23,000 deer, elk and moose have tested negative for CWD. Three mule deer, one each in 2009, 2010 and 2011, taken from unit 3F2 in southwestern North Dakota tested positive. All three were within 15 miles of each other.

      The hunter-harvested surveillance program annually collects samples taken from hunter-harvested deer in specific regions of the state. The Game and Fish Department also has a targeted surveillance program that is an ongoing, year-round effort to test animals found dead or sick.

      CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal. Scientists have found no evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans or livestock.

    • June 17, 2011 9:10 AM EDT



      State Lyme commission only lacks funds










      June 13, 2011





      The creation of the state's first Lyme disease commission is all but a done deal.



      A budget amendment proposing creation of a commission to study the tick-borne illness has passed both the House and Senate. The commission becomes official once Gov. Deval Patrick signs off on the state's fiscal 2012 budget, which legislators expect to take place by the end of the month. The new fiscal year begins July 1.



      The commission will bring together experts in medicine, wildlife management, public health, and insect control, as well as patients and advocates, to come up with ways to prevent and treat the disease.



      Local advocates for people with Lyme disease say the commission is a positive development in advancing understanding of the illness, which was controversial even before it was first recognized in 1975.



      "There's hundreds of people who are sick, getting sick," and cannot find physicians who will treat them, said John Kenneway, a fisherman in Chatham.



      The medical community agrees on very little when it comes to diagnosing and treating Lyme, which is named after a town in Connecticut where it first drew public notice.






      Every issue debatable



      The debates start right away, from how many doses of doxycycline to use in early stages to which laboratories are best for testing blood for evidence of antibodies indicating presence of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.



      Physicians disagree on whether late-stage Lyme even exists, although sufferers say it's debilitating.



      Kenneway said if he had been treated properly when he became ill in 1986, his Lyme disease might have been controlled. Instead, he said, it's created havoc with his immune system and caused neurological problems, muscle pain and physical weakness, among other symptoms.



      In its early stages, Lyme is more of a flulike illness, sometimes accompanied by a bull's eye rash.



      Advocates say the suffering caused by the tick-borne disease is particularly acute on the Cape and Islands, which has the highest incidence of Lyme per capita in the state.



      In 2009, the last year for which the state has figures, there were 4,028 newly diagnosed cases in Massachusetts, including 255 cases in Barnstable, Nantucket and Dukes counties.






      Legislator's advocacy



      It took the advocacy of state Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, chairman of the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, whose son has Lyme, to make the commission a reality, Richard Sylver of East Dennis said.



      "That's what it takes — somebody who has the disease or knows somebody who has the disease, to get this thing going," Sylver said.



      He is a founder of the Brewster Lyme Disease Support Group.



      As part of its work, the Lyme disease commission aims to educate the medical community and remove barriers to treatment.



      Members of the new commission will include representatives from medical camps with opposing views of treatment and chronic care, as well as members of the Legislature and municipal health officials.



      Also included will be representatives of the state Department of Public Health, the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, the state Laboratory Institute and the state epidemiologist.



      Four other members will be patients or family members of patients and members of Lyme disease organizations from across the state.



      "The more feedback from patients and those involved in the issues of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, the better," said Joanne Creel, a Lyme sufferer and activist from Yarmouthport.



      She said she hopes the commission includes representation from the Cape and Islands, which has one of the oldest Lyme disease task forces in the state.



      The commission is expected to report back to the state Legislature next year.



      "I think it's a step forward, pending administrative support and some funding," said Brenda Boleyn of the Cape and Islands Lyme Disease Task Force.





    • April 26, 2011 10:10 AM EDT
    • By Dennis Tatz
      MILTON — Reducing the number of deer possibly carrying ticks that spread Lyme disease could be an option for controlling the problem, a sate official told residents Monday night.

      “You can reduce the tick population over time,” Sonja Christensen, deer and moose project leader for the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, told a gathering of about 75 people at the Trailside Museum. “It’s up to the town. We are not mandating what you should do.”

      Christensen, a biologist, said it would be ideal to reduce the number of deer in the area from about 25 per square mile to fewer than 10.

      Barbara Roth-Schechter, the health board chairwoman in Dover, told residents that the bow-hunting program last year in her community was successful in reducing the number of deer and the chances of an outbreak of Lyme disease.

      “We have to do something about Lyme disease, and controlling deer population is part of this effort,” Roth-Schechter said.

      She said her town allowed archers to hunt deer on several town-owned parcels and private properties with the permission of homeowners.

      Denise Swenson, who organized the meeting, said she was alarmed to find out in an informational survey she took that there were 18 cases of Lyme disease among 30 households in her neighborhood.

      “It’s extraordinary the number of people we have,” said Swenson, who along with her husband has twice been diagnosed with the debilitating ailment.

      Christensen said there is no simple solution for getting rid of ticks, which have a two-year life cycle.

      “There is a lot of forest and deer habitat out there,” she said.

      Christensen said there is a deer management program in place in Massachusetts. Hunting season is from mid October to the end of December.

      Communities, however, can restrict deer hunting through local bylaws, she said.

      Milton Selectmen Chairwoman Marion McEttrick said the state Department of Conservation and Recreation would play a major role in reducing the deer population in the area since the agency controls the 750-acre Neponset River Reservation and the 7,000-acre Blue Hill Reservation. Deer hunting is banned on those reservations.

      Dennis Tatz may be reached at

    • June 11, 2010 7:43 PM EDT
    • Thanks for the input. I know that here in the states, this is a very controversial topic. Doctors are afraid to diagnos it, They dont know how to treat it & Insuarance companies certainly do not want to pay for it. Some say to take this antibiotic & you should be ok. In truth- It is a dibilitating disease & should be treated as "long term care" but the insurance companies pay the right people so they do not have to pay.
      Symptoms? Wow- where to start- Memory loss, impaired vision, muscle aches, constant head pain, body tremors, fainting/blackouts to name a few.
      How do I know all of this- My wife has had it for the past 19 months. We have been to 37 doctors & Most of which was not covered by insurance. Well- More to say but not enough time

    • June 11, 2010 5:26 PM EDT
    • Lyme;s Disease is an awfull one to get and is life threatening, with the disease slowing shutting down your internal organs. Wendy Fox of the Lyme's dosease charity here in the UK is wheel chair bound and treats everyday as a bonus. I dont think we should worry about where or how the ticks arrive or survive i think we just need to be aware of them, check ourselves after being out where they live and use a good insect repellent. The next stage is if your find one on your the removal is the most critical part of prevention, Use a good quality removal tool designed especially for the job, like this one;TOM®_tick_Remover/product_info.html which is very popular her in the UK. DO NOT use a cigarette to burn it off, pull it off by hand or with tweezers. these methods will result in a higher risk of getting Lyme's disease from an infected tick
      Have fun and safe shooting

    • May 26, 2010 3:56 PM EDT
    • Ok.......& Now back to our sponsors.... Thank you Derek LOL

    • May 26, 2010 3:44 PM EDT
    • This is all BS just like the CWD and blacktongue.....yes they all exist but to what extent and effect? These scientist should read the bible.....duh It was all created and exists for a reason as natural selection and species control etc..... The only thing that has ever hurt the earth is Man's greed and stupidity.....We are the only reason exstinction of species exist....we did it by modernization and greed..... yes some isolated incidents occur but you don't see animals getting wiped out by lime disease.....maybe an oil spill......but if an area is shows potential of natural eradication...why not study it to see the true affects.....I think that what ever species starts declining its probably what the area needed for a period of time.....Man is the only variable that has the power to manipulate nature for the worse...everything else is IMO needed

    • May 15, 2010 6:45 PM EDT
    • Are Deer the Culprit in Lyme Disease? Byline By THE EDITORSdeerJim Cole/Associated Press

      In a Room for Debate forum earlier this week on ticks and Lyme disease (“More Ticks, More Misery”), some readers reacted by focusing on the issue of a link between deer and the black-legged tick, commonly called the deer tick. A few sought more explanation from one scientist in the forum, Richard S. Ostfeld, for his observation that “several recent studies in New York and New Jersey have found no connection between populations of deer and ticks.” Excerpts from the readers’ comments on Dr. Ostfeld’s findings are followed by a response co-written by him and another contributor to the forum, Felicia Keesing, a biologist.

      Readers: The Evidence of a Deer Link

      Looks like Richard Ostfeld needs to provide the rest of us with a reading list of those studies that shows NO relation between deer abundance and tick numbers. …

      I remember a case of an island on the North Shore above Boston that had a very high prevalence of Lyme in its human residents. The citizens finally said “enough” and had all the deer residents removed, and Lyme disease did decline. Ostfeld tells us of cases of no relation between deer and ticks; are there no cases where there is such a relation?

      — Eric Olson

      … While it’s true that the small mammals are the hosts for the disease, it is our overabundance of deer that allows the overabundance of the deer tick (black-legged tick, ixodes scapularis).

      The mice help the ticks in the first year of their two-year life cycle, but the deer give the transportation and last blood meal for the adult tick.

      Studies have shown that if you reduce the deer density to about 10 per square mile, you dramatically reduce the tick abundance, and Lyme disease is dramatically reduced also.

      Studies of this nature include Monhegan Island, ME; Great Island, MA; and Mumford Cove, CT; and there are more. In the first two cases, they removed essentially all the deer and Lyme disease dropped to non-existent. But it is not necessary to remove all the deer, just get them down to 10 per square mile. This is what happened at Mumford Cove, and it dropped the Lyme cases from a peak of 30 per year, down to two or less.
      — Socrates

      I would like to see some sources for Richard Ostfeld’s allegation that there is no connection between populations of deer and ticks.

      I have a 6 acre property here in central Virginia, consisting of woods and fields, surrounded by more woods and fields. 2 acres of that is fenced in. I am a deer hunter and an amateur naturalist, so I pay extremely close attention to deer behavior and population dynamics all year round. The deer generally stay out of the fenced area for lack of anything special to entice them within, and I can walk through the tall grass every day and emerge without a single tick. …

      Outside of the fence, tick densities are enormous. When I follow a deer trail or sit down in a whitetail’s regular bedding area, I will find my jeans crawling with ticks within minutes.

      — Jackson Landers

      Response: Reducing Herds Won’t Reduce RisksFelicia KeesingRichard S. Ostfeld

      Felicia Keesing is a biology professor at Bard College, and Richard S. Ostfeld is senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

      Millions of people living in Lyme disease zones, including current patients (who can get infected repeatedly), will benefit from a better understanding of risk. With no vaccine currently available, imperfect diagnostic tests, and controversy over appropriate treatment, prevention is a critically important strategy, and avoidance of infected ticks is the most effective means of prevention. Our research is aimed at understanding where the hordes of infected ticks come from and why. This information is fundamental to prevention.

      One theme is the role of deer in determining tick abundance. In the first 15 years after Lyme disease was discovered in coastal New England, several studies showed that many adult ticks feed on deer, and researchers surmised that deer were critical to the tick life cycle. When researchers eradicated deer from New England islands, tick populations crashed.

      Unfortunately, nature has a way of being more complex than first thought.

      The key to the Lyme disease problem seemed at hand. Unfortunately, nature has a way of being more complex than first thought. One complication is that adult black-legged ticks feed on raccoons, skunks, opossums, and other medium-sized mammals. When deer are scarce, ticks don’t necessarily become scarce, because they have alternative hosts. Indeed, several recent studies (e.g., Jordan and Schulze, 2005; Ostfeld et al., 2006; Jordan et al., 2007 — see citations below) on mainland sites in New York and New Jersey found no correlation between deer and ticks.

      Second, ticks and Lyme disease are rare or absent in parts of the United States (the Southeast, most of the Midwest) where deer are abundant.

      Third, ticks are only dangerous if they are infected, and deer play no role in infecting ticks. Ticks become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium by feeding on small mammals such as white-footed mice, chipmunks, and shrews. And mice play the additional role of increasing tick survival — they are at the opposite extreme from opossums, which kill the vast majority of ticks they encounter. When our group compared the importance of deer, mice, and climate in determining the number of infected ticks over 13 years in southeastern New York State, mice were the winners hands down.

      Other compelling reasons exist for controlling deer populations, such as reducing vehicle accidents and increasing forest regeneration. But, in many Lyme disease zones, reducing the deer herd is unlikely to substantially affect tick abundance. Reducing mice is more likely to be effective.

      This is best accomplished by allowing natural predators like weasels, coyotes, foxes, and owls to do the job. And the best way to increase their numbers is to maximize the size of forest patches. A number of other ways of reducing risk are currently being tested by our group and others, including the use of natural products such as soil fungi to kill ticks without adverse environmental impacts and the use of vaccines against Lyme disease that can be delivered to wildlife.


      Jordan RA and TL Schulze. 2005. Deer browsing and the distribution of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in central New Jersey forests. Environmental Entomology 34: 801-806.

      Jordan, RA, TL Schulze, and MB Jahn. 2007. Effects of reduced deer density on the abundance of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) and Lyme disease incidence in a northern New Jersey endemic area. Journal of Medical Entomology 44: 752-757.

      Ostfeld RS, CD Canham, K Oggenfuss, RJ Winchcombe, F Keesing. 2006. Climate, deer, rodents, and acorns as determinants of variation in Lyme-disease risk. PLoS Biology 4: 1058-1068.