MSPCA-Angell Headquarters

350 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-7400
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Angell Animal Medical Centers – Boston

350 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-7282
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Angell West

293 Second Avenue, Waltham, MA 02451
(781) 902-8400
For on-site assistance (check-ins and pick-ups):
(339) 970-0790
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Angell at Essex

565 Maple Street, Danvers, MA 01923
(978) 304-4648
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Animal Care and Adoption Centers – Boston

350 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-5055
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Animal Care and Adoption Centers – Cape Cod

1577 Falmouth Road, Centerville, MA 02632
(508) 775-0940
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Animal Care and Adoption Centers – Nevins Farm

400 Broadway, Methuen, MA 01844
(978) 687-7453
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Animal Care and Adoption Centers – Northeast Animal Shelter

347 Highland Ave., Salem, MA 01970
(978) 745-9888
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Deer Hunting and Lyme Disease

The MSPCA recognizes the widespread concern regarding Lyme disease and the need for more information and education on the issue. The pervasive misnomer, “deer tick,” suggests a correlation between deer and tick-borne Lyme disease, leading many communities to increase deer in an attempt to reduce disease incidence. Yet according to leading Lyme disease experts, human risk of exposure to Lyme disease is correlated more so with the abundance of immature rodent hosts and other factors, rather than deer numbers. Ticks do not require a specific host and can thrive, for example, by feeding on white-footed mice and other small animals.

Recent studies report, for example, “Although deer may play a role in the tick life cycle, studies point to a limited association of deer populations with human TBD risk.” Also, “Overabundance of deer is also found in areas of low LD risk.” Additionally, despite major health organizations such as the NIH having conducted studies to identify a possible deer-Lyme disease link, no major health organization has identified hunting as an effective means of addressing Lyme disease.


The following tactics may be effective in reducing the number of tick-borne diseases:

1. Increase public education

According to the Assistant State Epidemiologist in Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, education is the key to prevention because “a deer tick will not transmit Lyme disease if removed within 24 to 36 hours.” Communities should focus on increasing public education about ticks, including how to reduce the chance of sustaining a tick bite and what to do if bitten. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends that people protect themselves from ticks by using repellents, staying out of tall grassy areas, and checking for ticks every day.

2. Install deer treatment bait stations and bait boxes for mice and other small mammals

Deer treatment bait stations (“4-poster devices”) can be more effective than killing deer because the treatment kills the ticks that are carrying the disease. Recommended by the American Lyme Disease Foundation, these bait stations work by attracting deer with bait, which is situated so that, while eating, deer rub up against applicators that apply a pesticide to their ears, heads, necks and shoulders, which is dispersed to the rest of the body through grooming. The pesticide, permethrin, is EPA approved and safe for the deer, and acts to kill most of the ticks before they can reproduce.

“Bait boxes” for mice and other small mammals use fipronil, also used in Frontline spot treatments for cats and dogs; this approach has been shown to reduce tick infections.

3. Modify habitat to reduce the number of ticks in high-use areas

Habitat modification can also be used to reduce the number of ticks in recreational areas. Places with low-lying vegetation, shrubs, and grasses surrounding campgrounds or backyards should be close cropped or mowed to discourage tick movement and nesting. An approved residual insecticide should then be broadcast into the surrounding vegetation to establish an effective chemical barrier. A similar process, but on a smaller scale, can be followed for well-defined hiking trails. Control needs to be inclusive of the nymphal stage, when ticks are most likely to transmit the disease to humans.

The MSPCA’s Living With Wildlife philosophy involves effective strategies that are long lasting; reducing deer herds will not successfully address the tick-borne disease. We agree with the many professionals who recognize that this issue needs to be addressed through education, prevention, and innovative pesticide and habitat modification methods that directly impact tick populations.

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