As Americans gather outdoors to celebrate the 4th of July, ticks are also out -- and in record numbers -- particularly in certain places such as the east end of Long Island. According to the Sag Harbor Express, New York State Department of Health officials recommend that individuals protect themselves by staying inside (the Health Department website does offer some more useful advice). Seriously, that’s just dumb, particularly when the state serves as a main roadblock to some real solutions.
It’s high time New York officials got serious about controlling the state's dangerous and growing tick population, which expands along with the population of its main host animal: white-tail deer.
One tool that has been shown to work elsewhere is the 4-Poster deer feeding station. It basically works like the insect repellents we put on our dogs, such as Frontline, but for deer. When the animals come to feed on corn at 4-Poster stations, they rub up against polls containing a pesticide, which eventually kills off the ticks. These systems have been shown to cut tick populations by 77 percent to 94 percent over several years. See the photos with this post (source: the American Lyme Disease Foundation website), which show the reduction of ticks on deer that feed at the 4-Poster stations.
New York State has banned this solution everywhere except in Suffolk County, where it is being experimented with on Shelter Island. Apparently results are positive, but use of the system is declining because of the cost of corn feed for the deer, according to the report in the Sag Harbor Press. Rather than search for funding or allow individuals to pay for their own backyard stations (which could be monitored and controlled by local officials to ensure safety), the state may abandon this option altogether.
New York officials have delayed use of 4-Poster feed stations because of concerns that feeding the animals would contribute to increasing deer populations. It is true high deer populations in suburban areas cause problems, such as highway accidents and damage to vegetation and gardens. Others expressed concern pesticides would get into deer meat, but as noted here, that's not the case, as it stays on the hide and does not migrate into the animal’s flesh. These concerns can and should be managed (and may require culling of deer herds), when employing useful technologies to control the ticks -- rather than simply letting the ticks proliferate and make people sick.
The impact on human health is too serious to ignore, given the fact several thousand New Yorkers get Lyme disease every year. In addition to Lyme disease ticks, health officials have discovered a new, similar tick-transmitted illness called Borrelia miyamotoi, that is affecting thousands of New Yorkers as well. Ticks also cause Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (recently in the news as a likely cause of death of a 6-year-old girl in Louisiana), among other things.
Enough with the politics of delay and procrastination! State regulators should get out of the way and allow local health officials to deploy the best technologies available -- including 4-Poster feeding stations.