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Connecting The Dots: Deer, Car Accidents, Lyme Disease, And You

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds over at InstaPundit, I learned that motor vehicle collisions with deer are up 18% compared to 5 years ago.

State Farm calculates the chances of a West Virginia vehicle striking a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 39. Michigan remains second on that list.  The likelihood of a specific vehicle striking a deer there is 1 in 78.  Pennsylvania (1 in 94) and Iowa (1 in 104) remain third and fourth respectively.  Montana (1 in 104) moved up three places to fifth.

Now, aside from the fact that deer present challenges to our driving friends in West Virgina, Michigan, and beyond – they are also the definitive host for Lyme disease. Ticks feed on the deer (who, by the way, become infected with Lyme spirochetes but suffer no symptoms) and on unsuspecting humans – passing the infection along. And so when deer populations increase, Lyme disease often does too.


Dr. Val & Local Steer

I recently learned that Lyme disease has become a real problem in the part of Nova Scotia where I grew up. My neighbor had suffered a case of it herself, and was diagnosed on the street by a physician friend who recognized the pathognomonic “target shaped” rash on her arm. I asked her about it and she said,

“The deer are out of control because local animal rights activists have lobbied to shorten the hunting season. They have also limited the locations where deer may be hunted to such a limited area that the folks are afraid to fire their guns because they might shoot each other (which has happened). So basically, no one hunts deer anymore – and they’re becoming a real menace. They’ve eaten all the flowers around my house and wander through the town streets at will. I think we have the largest concentration of Lyme disease in the country now.”

This is another great example of unintended consequences, and how animals and people are so interconnected. In “saving” the deer, we increased gunshot injuries and spread Lyme disease to humans.

As I considered the problem I told my friend that I’d recently watched a documentary about excess numbers of wolves in Alaska. “Perhaps we can settle them in Nova Scotia so they can take care of the deer problem?”

“They’d probably just eat our cows.” She said. “And all things considered, I’d rather meet a deer outside my door than a wolf.”

I could see her point.


For more information on how to recognize and prevent Lyme disease, check out the CDC website.

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One Response to “Connecting The Dots: Deer, Car Accidents, Lyme Disease, And You”

  1. Edwin Leap says:

    In South Carolina, deer season is a huge part of the rural culture. In fact, I have hunting plots on my own property. Although there are gunshot wounds that occur while deer hunting, they are actually pretty unusual; possibly because deer season is very long, so no one feels a rush to get their deer in a narrow, two week window.

    But the problem could be solved in areas with large deer and human population by encouraging archery, muzzle-loading, shotgun or pistol-caliber hunting seasons; all of which are weapons with lower energy and shorter ranges than most big-game rifles.

    Heck, bring back the spear and atlatl! One of my ancestors killed a deer by throwing a dinner plate; her kids were hungry during the chaos of the Civil War…sorry, the War of Northern Aggression!


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