Thursday, July 26, 2007

CALIFORNIA NEWS: Efforts to Save Point Reyes Invasive Deer Renewed

Just as officials planned to hire hunters to thin out non-native deer at Point Reyes National Seashore, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey came to the deer's defense this week.
Woolsey said she wants officials to kill fallow and axis deer, and sent a letter to park Superintendent Don Neubacher asking that the plan be halted.
Woolsey said a committee should be formed to study alternatives.
The National Park Service said in August 2006 it preferred lethal and contraception methods after reviewing a final environmental impact statement that listed five alternatives to protect native black-tailed deer and tule elk populations threatened by foreign deer in the national seashore.
"Although the park service has gone through a lengthy process to arrive at this point, I believe there is more that could be done before lethal removal is implemented," Woolsey wrote. "There is no urgency to move forward."
Contracts for culling the non-native deer - which biologists said have run roughshod over the park's ecosystem - have been signed and could be launched within weeks, park officials said.
The axis and fallow deer are transplants from Southern Asia and Europe respectively, that were brought to the Point Reyes National Seashore in the 1940's, according to the Marin Independent Journal.
The deer will be eliminated by 2021 under the plan.


MICHIGAN NEWS: Clinton Township to Ban Bow Hunting

Clinton Township officials Monday took steps to ban hunting in the 28-square-mile community in response to a large number of people bow hunting deer along the Clinton River.

The township Board of Trustees agreed to ask the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to make a recommendation to close the area to any form of hunting because it poses a safety risk in Michigan's most populated township.

"Every fall during bow hunting season we have people going to hunt in our wetlands and wooded areas along the Clinton River," police Chief Fred Posavetz said. "Invariably, people with homes in that area are concerned about their safety."

Clinton Township already has a law banning firearm hunting, but bow hunting is still legal east of Garfield and north of Clinton River Road. With Clinton Township nearly fully developed with about 98,000 residents, officials want to close that area as well.

Under Monday's action, Clinton Township will ask the DNR to conduct an investigation and determine whether the state agrees there should be a hunting ban, said Kristi Glavich, a township attorney.

"We feel the best way to cleanly prohibit hunting is to have the DNR declare Clinton Township is off limits," Glavich said.

If the DNR agrees, a public hearing will be held in Clinton Township in the coming months.

Township officials said a "healthy deer population" continues to sustain and reproduce along the river. Banning hunting likely will not increase the population, they added. [Rooney notes: actually, it will].

"I don't think it's appropriate to allow hunting in such a populated area," said Clerk Dennis Tomlinson, a longtime bow hunter. "It should be farther out away from the population."

If the measure is approved, the ban would include firearms, bow and arrow, slingshot and trapping.


MARYLAND NEWS: Increase in Lyme Disease

Kelly Strzelecki has a new reason to avoid ticks -- not that she needed one. "I hate them -- who doesn't?" she asked, prefacing her latest experience with the tiny bloodsuckers.

Her son, Graham, 7, developed a rash last month while the Catonsville family was attending a YMCA camp in tick-infested woods. A week later, the boy fell ill. "He had these unexplained fevers, and he was lethargic and kind of pale," recalled Strzelecki.

Medical tests showed Graham had contracted Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection that's notoriously difficult to spot and well-entrenched in the forests of Maryland and neighboring states.

Confirmed Lyme disease cases have grown steadily over the past decade in the United States. In Maryland, the number of reported cases more than doubled between 2001 and 2006 from 608 cases to 1,248, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

As of July 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received 675 unconfirmed reports in Maryland this year, a 26 percent increase over the same period last year.

Public health officials said the number of Lyme disease infections is probably on the rise, but cautioned that growing public awareness of the disease might also be responsible for more diagnoses.

Epidemiologists first recorded Lyme disease as a discrete illness in the United States in the mid-1970s, after a number of children in Lyme, Conn., developed joint pain and circular red rashes. Scientists identified Borrelia burgdorferi, the spiral-shaped bacteria that cause the disease, in 1983.

The bacteria are carried by tiny, black-legged ticks that are no larger than a sesame seed. Also known as deer ticks, they feed on deer, mice and other mammals, then pass the Lyme-causing bacteria to humans and domesticated animals. The ticks are particularly common in wooded areas with dense brush, tall grass and heavy leaf litter.

Most people contract the infection in May, June and July, but symptoms often appear in late summer and early fall.

Dr. Charles A. Haile, chief of infectious disease at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, said family doctors have become more comfortable diagnosing and treating Lyme disease in recent years.

In fact, he might not notice a rise in infections, he said, because general practitioners now refer fewer patients to specialists like him. "The expertise in diagnosing Lyme has grown a lot in Maryland over the past 10 years," he said.

The actual number of people contracting the disease may be on the rise as well. One possible reason, experts say, is the increasingly frequent collision between deer and mouse populations and suburban sprawl.

The five Maryland jurisdictions with the most reported Lyme cases are home to large suburban populations: Carroll, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Howard and Harford counties. Cecil County, which has one of the highest per capita rates of infection, is also one of the fastest-growing regions in Maryland.

"We continue to create the environment for the transmission of this disease," said John Krick, director of epidemiology and disease control programs at DHMH. "We build houses on newly cleared land, putting ourselves closer to the forest and wild animals."

While the deer population has fluctuated in recent years, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates that there are about 240,000 white-tailed deer in Maryland, the same number as a decade ago. [Rooney: yes, but deer populations are increasing in the most populated areas and people are increasing in high deer density areas. The state level is the wrong level of analysis here].

Douglas Hotton, leader of DNR's deer management program, said deer numbers may have little to do with the spread of Lyme disease. In fact, he suggested that the very name "deer tick" is misleading. "It ought to really be called the 'mouse tick,'" he said, since the white-footed mouse is the main host for the Lyme-causing bacteria.

Hotton said only a few deer are required to sustain a large number of ticks, and that fluctuations in the population appear to have little effect on the incidence of Lyme disease. Water, which ticks require to thrive, may play a larger role in sustaining a tick population than the sheer number of deer and mice.

Efforts to reduce tick populations in neighborhoods with insecticides are effective, but difficult to implement statewide, Hotton said.

One device scientists have tried applies tick killer to a deer's neck when it sticks its head into a man-made feeder. Another method involves cardboard tubes stuffed with insecticide-soaked cotton balls. Mice use the cotton as nesting material and in the process coat their fur with the tick killer.

Removing brush and leaf litter around homes and edging yards and sports fields with buffer zones of gravel or wood chips can also reduce tick populations, according to the CDC.

Source (and full story):,0,1247.story

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Humane Society Pushes Non-Lethal Deer Control

SOLEBURY — Few sights can top the serene majesty of a white-tailed deer in a green field or a shaded wood.
But that same deer can inflict damage and death on the nation's highways and back roads.
The problem, experts agree, is the conflict that results when the habitats of people and nature overlap. Where the experts disagree is how best to handle the conflict.
Some experts advocate allowing hunters to thin the herd, but this summer, the problem became too severe in a local community to wait for hunting season.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services has said a more immediate response was needed in Solebury Township to cut the deer-vehicle collision rate of two every three days and also to curtail the damage inflicted on local crops.
Wildlife Services sent in a crew, including a sharpshooter with night-vision goggles and thermal imaging equipment, to cull the herd. The crew killed 116 deer, including 12 fawns, over a four-night period. The crew will return sometime in August to continue the shoot.
The Humane Society of the United States says there are other, better methods to control the conflict that are also more humane. Tonight (July 26) at New Hope-Solebury High School at 6:30 p.m., the society will present a discussion of nonlethal methods. Donald Elroy, the society's director of wildlife advocacy in Washington D.C., will be the speaker.
People who attend the meeting will have the opportunity to sign a petition against the lethal methods of deer control.
The petition is intended not just for Solebury residents, but for anyone who "feels this could become an issue in their area," said Kathy Mays Acker, a former Solebury resident who now resides in Plumsteadville.
She added, "So we can show our representatives that we do not care to ever have them go and think along these lines when there are so many other ways to address this issue."
The shoot in Solebury may cause an undesirable increase in the number of deer, according to the Humane Society.
It could result in "less challenging situations and more habitat for the remaining deer," Mr. Elroy said.
He added, "When this occurs, the deer rebound by having more sets of twins, thereby increasing population numbers."
The society says other effective methods would address the collisions and the loss of income to farmers as well as Lyme disease.
"Crop loss and damage could easily be compensated by the community or through USDA," Mr. Elroy told Wildlife Services and Solebury in a letter e-mailed June 20. "Compensation for crop loss is a regular program under the auspices of the USDA."
To prevent the damage in the first place, Mr. Elroy said nurseries in the area have had "very impressive results" when they erected deer fencing.
The frequency of collisions can be lowered through a number of means, according to the society. Among the options are lower speed limits, Strieter-Lite reflectors, motion sensor flashing signals, wildlife crossings and green bridges.
The Strieter-Lite Wild Animal Highway Warning Reflector System was patented in 1994. It is designed to work between dusk and dawn when deer are most active. The system reflects vehicle headlights and sends out a reflected beam at deer. It acts to deter deer from crossing the road while traffic is approaching.
Green bridges are grassy, earth-like pathways or bridges constructed over roads. They funnel deer and other large wildlife away from the path of traffic.
With the proximity of deer to the human population comes a concern for ticks, and with certain ticks comes disease. Tick bites can result in at least 10 different diseases in humans, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.
The deer tick, or black-legged tick, is responsible for transmitting Lyme disease in the eastern part of the United States. It needs to feed on blood as it moves through the three stages of its life cycle, larva, nymph and adult.
In the adult stage, the tick waits on leaves or grass for a passing host, preferably a deer, and latches on as the deer passes by.
The USDA has used a device called a four-poster to deal with ticks in the deer population. It is a metal device where deer feed. As they insert their heads and necks into the device, they are brushed with a tick-killing chemical.
The Humane Society says the USDA should also consider ways to control ticks at other stages in the life cycle.
"If the ticks are controlled at an earlier developmental stage, it would have an overall larger effect on tick population and control of Lyme disease," Mr. Elroy said. "The black-legged tick is not specific to deer and transfers through a variety of hosts during different life stages."
To control the deer population, the society also points to methods of contraception as well as surgical sterilization.
"In short, there are a variety of non-lethal approaches that should have been implemented in the initial stage of any strategy or plan concerning human-deer conflict situations," Mr. Elroy said.