Vineyard's Tick-Bearing Deer Tend to Cluster, Aerial Survey Shows
Some spots on Martha's Vineyard are estimated to have more than 50 deer per square mile, while others may have few to none, according to data from an aerial survey conducted as part of the Island-wide campaign against tick-borne diseases like Lyme.
Where there are deer, there are ticks and where there are ticks, there is Lyme disease.
But "is the high occurrence of Lyme disease really a function of the density of the deer population?" asks Thomas L. Millette, PHD, director of the Geoprocessing Laboratory and Program at Mt. Holyoke College.
In January of this year, the Martha's Vineyard Boards of Health commissioned Millette to do an aerial survey to estimate the number of deer on the Island, using environmental-imaging technology he had developed "to do moose surveys," he explains, and adapted to scan for deer on the Vineyard.
Millette's survey found deer in densities estimated at more than 50 animals per square mile in a number of rural areas and more than 25 per square mile in many more.
"It's clear that deer are not universally distributed, that they are collecting in certain areas and in the areas where they are collecting they are collecting in pretty significant densities," Millette tells Island health officials in the video.
Millette's data will assist epidemiologists studying the spread of Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks.
"If we want to manage deer as a way to manage tick-borne illness, it would be good to know where they are, in what densities, ad then try to think about appropriate ways of interventions to do what we need to do," he says.
Do you believe that controlling the deer population may help reduce the prevalence of Lyme disease? Tell us in the comments.