Count the deer

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 8:30pm

Peter Krause, M.D. mentioned something during his review of the 25 years he and others have been studying Lyme disease on Block Island. He spoke of the increased numbers of cases his team has seen of the Powassan virus, a disease spread by ticks that can be deadly. “It’s really bad,” said Krause. The presence of the virus in the northeast was heightened by the news that a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, Kay Hagan, died from the disease this past week. Krause emphasized that there is no evidence of Powassan on Block Island, but his team is keeping an eye on how the disease tracks.

This, along with the very real damage Lyme disease and babesiosis do each year to the people of Block Island, are reasons enough for the island to renew its efforts to reduce the deer population.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management should do a thorough deer count on Block Island this winter. We need to get some hard numbers so that we can then implement a plan to significantly reduce the deer herd. Krause stated plainly that reducing the herd incrementally is not going to have any impact on lessening the cases of tick-borne disease.

The island may have to come up with something more effective than offering $150 for each deer, because the number of deer is obviously on the rise again.

The reasons why Krause said Block Island was such an ideal place to study tick-borne diseases — we’re a small, contained community — also makes it an ideal place to come up with a plan that will effectively reduce the number of deer without eliminating the population completely.