Sharpshooters Aim to Protect N.J. Mall From Deer

But advocates say deer are a greater threat to humans. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not specifically track deer collisions, it recorded 14,574 crashes with animals that resulted in injuries in 2006. Another 17, 701 crashes occurred when drivers swerved to avoid an animal. And a recent report in USA Today pegs the number of incidents even higher, estimating that more than 1 million motorists are involved in accidents with deer each year.

Accidents … and Disease

In Minnesota, deer-car collisions injured almost 500 people and killed three last year, according to the Star Tribune, which described the animals as "fertile, ravenous and thickheaded -- especially around a highway."

Many other communities worry about Lyme disease, which is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected black-legged ticks. Deer are an important part of the tick's life cycle.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium and, left untreated, can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

About 93 percent of all Lyme cases occur in 10 states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 64,382 cases reported nationwide between 2003 and 2005.

In Connecticut, where Lyme disease was named for the town where it was first identified, a citizen coalition urges the state to kill deer, saying they are a health hazard.

"It's something whose time has come," Georgina Scholl of the Connecticut Coalition Against Lyme Disease, told The Associated Press.

But complaints like the ones lodged in New Jersey are not uncommon. Animal protection activists vow to fight any efforts to kill deer in Connecticut.

Do Deer Hunts Prevent Disease?

Just last December, students at Goucher College outside Baltimore petitioned against the school's plan to thin a deer population that had surged to 200 on its bucolic campus. Over the holidays, after student protests died down, professional bowmen killed 62 deer.

"Once the kids understood the facts, it really petered out," said Kristen Keener, the college's director of media relations.

Deer get trapped in Goucher's gated 287-acre campus, and the only exit is through a four-lane highway.

"Once the deer get here, there is no place for them to go, and they stay and have babies," said Keener. "Unfortunately, we find deer in the gullies by the road."

College officials were concerned about car collisions and destruction of landscaping but more alarmed by five confirmed cases of Lyme disease at their health center. Six to 12 other students had "suspicious bites."

"A lot of people think it's a dubious line between Lyme disease and the number of deer," said Keener. "But because we are a college, we have respect for the health and well-being of 1,450 kids. It's a risk the college is not willing to take."

But Lyme disease experts and animal advocates say hunting down deer does nothing to prevent the spread of Lyme disease. Both the Wildlife Protection Network and the American Lyme Disease Foundation have opposed hunting deer as a means of combating the disease.

"There is a lot of misinformation about Lyme disease," said Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a pediatrician and Lyme specialist from Yale University, who blames horror stories on the Internet for scaring parents about the disease.

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