Swan’s Island special hunt kills only two deer

Lots of ticks and cases of Lyme disease alarmed residents of Swan’s Island, and led to a special deer hunt in February. A study found that 50% of the island’s ticks were infected with Lyme spirochete. Ticks infected with the deadly Powassan virus were also discovered on the island.

l learned about this in an article in Island Institute’s newsletter. With DIFW’s support, fourteen hunters were placed over bait at ten sites, but from February 7 to March 1, they only killed two deer.

The town is hoping to schedule another special hunt this December. IF&W has said it plans to continue issuing permits for special hunts on Swan’s Island for the next several years.

In the newsletter, Wanda Curtis reported that IF&W has been collaborating with Swan’s Island officials and Maine Medical Center Research Institute to develop the approach, which he said could serve as a pilot program. Tick and disease incidence data from Swan’s Island will be compared with that from nearby Isle au Haut during the next several years. Because deer hunting isn’t allowed on Isle au Haut, that island will serve as a control.

The Maine Medical Research Center has been researching these issues and problems for a long time. In the 1990s, researchers tried many different initiatives to reduce ticks and Lyme cases on Monhegan, which at the time had the highest per capita cases of Lyme in the state. But nothing worked.
So I helped the islanders get a permit to kill all the deer on the island, and when they did, they had no more cases of Lyme.

I’m sure the good folks on Swan’s Island don’t want to kill all their deer, but so far, that is the only thing that has worked to eliminate Lyme.

Linda and I, during our 7 years of writing travel columns for central Maine’s newspaper, loved Swan’s Island, off Mt. Desert Island. It’s a very beautiful and special place. I wish them success in dealing with this awful problem.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.