Deer Dilemma Part 6: Expert: With deer, it’s Darwin — not Disney

Photo from 2005. (Courtesy Linda Crichlow White.)
The threat of Lyme disease

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 5:54 pm

Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment of “Deer Dilemma,” a WTOP series about the controversial deer hunt planned for Rock Creek Park.

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON — Lyme disease is not one of the stated reasons for the planned deer hunt in Rock Creek Park, but there is a deer-disease connection, some experts say.

“Deer do harbor ticks that carry human disease, very specifically Lyme disease,” says Mike McGrath, WTOP’s Garden Editor.

“If everybody had a mud yard, they would be astounded at how many mornings they would see that deer had tracked within feet of their front door. Every engorged tick that drops off a deer in a front yard is a chance that somebody in that family is going to catch Lyme disease, which can be devastating and very difficult to diagnose, and after a point, almost impossible to treat,” he says.

Some people dispute that deer and Lyme disease are closely related.

“Mice, and to some extent chipmunks, are the ones that really carry the disease,” says deer-kill opponent Anne Barton.

McGrath supports the plan to cull the herd in Rock Creek Park.

“With no natural predators, and with people preventing their demise, the deer will just go exponential on us. Every year, it won’t be a few more deer, it will be twice as many deer as the year before, and then it’ll twice as many the year after that. Especially with global warming as our winters get warmer, there’s more plant material out there for them,” he says.

In such numbers, McGrath says deer can have frightening power.

“They are like humans and elephants. They can actually change their environment, and they can defoliate large areas.”

McGrath understands there are strong feelings about the plan.

“You have to acknowledge this is an emotional issue. People don’t like the idea of animals being killed, but it really is Darwin, not Disney. We are organisms on this planet competing with other organisms for our existence.”

Deer Dilemma Part 1: A Rock Creek Park hunt on hold

Deer Dilemma Part 2: Living near Rock Creek Park

Deer Dilemma Part 3: ‘It’s not a Walt Disney movie

Deer Dilemma Part 4: The contraception question

Deer Dilemma Part 5: Car crashes and feeding the hungry

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