ISLESBORO, Maine — The deer are doomed. Voters here decided Wednesday night to kill about 400 of the about 500 deer on the island. There are almost as many deer on the island as there are year-round residents and the voters blame the animals for a Lyme disease “epidemic” in the small community.
The island does not yet know how it will maintain a low deer population once most of the herd has been harvested. To figure out the best option for the 11-mile long island, the board of selectmen will form a wildlife management group.
The vote was 100 to 28 to reduce the deer herd. The island will cull the herd from about 50 deer per square mile to 10 deer per square mile — and then work to maintain that population.
The deer on the island are the only breeding and feeding ground for ticks. Half of the ticks on the island carry Lyme bacteria, which can cause Lyme disease in tick-bit humans.
On the island of 600 year-round residents, about 70 of them have contracted the disease. At least 20 were diagnosed this year, plus at least 20 more suspected cases that were unconfirmed, but treated. That, for a small community, makes it a Lyme disease epidemic, according to Islesboro’s Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Committee.