A tick’s best friend

This town council is a tick’s best friend. That became apparent Monday night during a public hearing on whether the town should approve an urban deer hunt.

Despite information from the manager of Duke Forest about the explosion of the deer population there and efforts to control it, the disastrous environmental effects of an out-of-control deer population in Chapel Hill, and the potential for deer-borne diseases from ticks, the attitude of council members Laurin Easthom, Sally Greene and Penny Rich seemed to be that they’d like to have all that information in front of them before they ignore it.

Deer are a great place for ticks to meet and mate, said Carl Williams, a veterinarian with the N.C. Division of Public Health. The deer population provides a free ride for those ticks — a tick transit system, as it were — and in Chapel Hill that population has mushroomed in recent years, as council member and gardener Ed Harrison acknowledged.

Even so, Easthom, Greene and Rich were more concerned about the public perception of Chapel Hill should a deer hunt proceed rather than the comfort, safety and welfare of its residents. Even Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he didn’t want the public relations nightmare that was the deer cull in Governors Club to visit his town.

Del Snow spoke to the council and called a deer cull “a blotch on the town of Chapel Hill.” At one point it sounded as if some opposed a deer hunt because it would be bad for tourism. So a public safety issue devolved into a question of what people might think of the town if it took care of its growing problem.

Jim Ward reminded fellow council members that there was a danger in doing nothing. Given the circumlocutions that council members went through to come up with an ordinance, or resolution as some requested, there is nothing but delay coming down the line on this issue.

Meanwhile, the deer population will grow – one expert said it can double every two years – and the ticks grow fat and happy and enjoy the ride while this council does nothing.
–Don Evans

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  1. Anon

     /  April 20, 2010

    Lets think of all the limitations that must be imposed on hunting in a town:
    1) no hunting within several hundred feet of any houses or roads used by cars (so that wounded dear don’t run into them)
    2) no hunting near schools during operating hours
    3) any trails that are opened to the public must be closed during any hunt
    4) notification of public areas that will be closed in advance
    5) assumption that UNC will grant hunting on their land (including 1000 acres of carolina north)
    5) Tax dollars for publicly paid town employees (staff and police) to administer all of the above; make sure hunters are bonded/licensed/insured etc…

    The areas left to be hunted will be small with tons of restrictions; a hunter would be crazy to want to hunt in Chapel hill and town tax payers will pay dearly for it. It won’t be free.

  2. Frank

     /  April 20, 2010

    An in-town hunt is an insane idea. Positively insane. I for one, will shoot first, and ask questions later if I see anybody on my property with a gun. I have to believe that I’m not the only one.

    Deer-borne diseases are a significant problem, but not in town. Ticks don’t do so well on pavement or well-maintained lawns. They are preventable.

  3. Geoff Green

     /  April 25, 2010

    I appreciate the problem. But I reject the assumption that the solution is obvious and that the council members are being ostrich-like in refusing to take action. Duke Forest is not Chapel Hill. It’s not really possible to close Chapel Hill for five days for a deer hunt, as was done with Duke Forest. There are densely populated pockets of Chapel Hill, and many of the less populated areas are popular sites for people exploring, raising the possibility of mistakes. And as far as the deer-borne ticks are concerned, the state veterinarian told the town council that there’s been no demonstrated link between a reduction in deer population and deer-borne ticks (though it seems there should be). And while deer hunts have taken place in four communities in North Carolina, according to the Wildlife Resource Commission (though the town of Midland says more municipalities have participated) there’s no documented evidence that it has been successful by any pertinent metric.

    I would be interested to know how the urban-rural mixes of the communities that have participated in urban deer hunts compare to Chapel Hill’s mix.

    And Anon, it’s interesting to note that in Midland, hunting on private property can only take place with the landowner’s permission.

    For those interested. the Indy Weekly has a much more balanced presentation on what is a complicated issue: http://www.indyweek.com/triangulator/archives/2010/04/23/chapel-hill-craves-more-deer-data-before-deciding-on-bowhunting