By LINDZEY BEAL
Lyme disease has spread at an alarming rate in Vermont and continues to grow.
Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Vermont was listed as No. 1 in the country for confirmed cases of Lyme disease and is designated as an “endemic state.”
In addition, a study done by Dr. Marie J. George of the Infectious Disease Department at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in 2017 found that upwards of 63 percent of ticks were infected statewide with at least one tick-borne illness, with some carrying two at the same time.
Ticks and Lyme disease are an enormous public health concern that must be addressed immediately.
The smartest choice to tackle this issue is to work with Mother Nature, rather than against. This means placing a moratorium on the recreational and commercial killing of foxes in Vermont.
Foxes are a main predator of white-footed mice, who are an effective carrier and a key host of Lyme disease. Interventions, such as culling the deer population or spraying harmful tick-killing pesticides on lawns and clothing, have made minimal differences in lessening the spread of ticks and ultimately end up being short-term solutions. Protecting Vermont’s predators such as foxes and allowing their population to grow is getting more to the root of the problem, as opposed to quick fixes.
Research studies have shown that there is a link between the increase of mice populations and activity and the decline of predators that hunt mice, such as foxes. Mice infect up to 95 percent of ticks that feed on them and are responsible for infecting the majority of ticks carrying Lyme disease in the Northeast.
If a moratorium is placed on the recreational and commercial killing of foxes in Vermont, there is a strong possibility that we may see a decline in the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. This increased level of predator activity means fewer mice supplying blood meals for the next generation of ticks, which results in fewer ticks becoming infected. Addressing the root cause of the problem is a common-sense approach that does not present any downsides.
This safe, sensible and effective policy of halting the sport killing of foxes may have tremendous and life-saving results for the health and safety for Vermont residents.
The health benefits of establishing a moratorium on the hunting and trapping of foxes far outweigh any recreational benefits experienced by a small fraction of Vermonters. No one can equate the paltry price of a fox pelt with the cost of bearing Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
Taking a modest, evidenced-based step to combat the rapidly growing rate of tick-borne diseases is well worth the time and effort of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board to consider.
Please sign the petition online urging the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board to place a moratorium on the commercial and recreational killing of Vermont foxes. I also encourage you to email, write or call Louis Porter, the commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, asking him to pass this moratorium.
The shortened petition link is tinyurl.com/stopkillingfoxespetition.
Lindzey Beal lives in Wolcott.