Sharpshooters Aim to Protect N.J. Mall From Deer

"I tell parents to get an Internet-ectomy," he said. "You live your life and there is a lot of risk out there, but Lyme disease is treatable and curable."

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. Doctors treat the disease with antibiotics.

Deer are only a part of the tick's life cycle and are not infected with Lyme disease, according to Shapiro. During the winter, adult ticks feed on deer and mate. In the spring, ticks lay eggs and die. Larval ticks are born uninfected but attach themselves to white-footed mice and other small mammals, acquiring the bacteria. In the nymph stage, ticks are most likely to transmit the disease to humans. Jumping from mammal to mammal, including deer, the cycle starts again.

"Just reducing the numbers [of deer] is highly unlikely to affect the disease," said Shapiro, who said some scientists are exploring immunizing mice, who are the real carriers of the disease.

Wildlife Birth Control

The Humane Society of America also opposes hunting and recommends birth control programs for deer to control population. Killing deer to prevent disease is "inefficient and misguided," according to Laura Simon, field director for the Humane Society's urban wildlife program. "It won't work."

Studies in states like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have shown that when hunters kill off deer and there is ample food, the animals "rebound" with twins and triplets, according to Simon.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently testing an immunocontraceptive vaccine called GonaCon that is designed to be used as a wildlife management tool. It could to be available next year.

Humans make the deer problem worse by building roads and houses in their habitats, and giving deer more fodder by mowing vegetation on roads and using salt on winter roads, according to Simon. "Road maintenance practically brings deer to the roadway," said Simon.

For deer damage in suburban yards, she suggests planting landscaping deer don't like to eat -- daffodils instead of tulips -- or using sulphur-based repellents.

"I think there are things we can do to live with deer," she said.

Still, many who have had encounters with deer say they support the hunting programs.

When it comes to deer, Alexander James, who grew up in New Jersey, is twice shy. As a child, he was treated for advanced Lyme disease with intravenous antibiotics. Years later, he was riding in a car that was ramrodded by a deer. The impact on the passenger door threw his arm off the rest, before the animal limped away and died.

"I felt the full force of it hit the car," said the 26-year-old educator. "Deer are certainly not an endangered species."

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