Can we burn deer ticks away?

Swan’s Island off Mount Desert recently tried to reduce it’s tick population by burning a bunch of fields.

In an earlier column, I reported on the special deer hunt set up by DIFW to reduce the island’s deer population. Hunters had to sit in stands, and only shot two deer.

So I was very interested to learn about the islanders latest effort, reported by Jennifer Helman in the Island Institute’s Working Waterfront newsletter.

Jennifer notes that burning fields is a long-standing way to stimulate growth and improve the health of the soil. I can remember burning the field behind our house in Winthrop when I was a kid.

Islanders gathered for 3 nights to burn fields, specifically to rid them of ticks. Propane torches were used to start fires in a planned pattern, and people stood by to keep fires from spreading in the wrong direction.

Jennifer reported that ticks may be resilient, but so are islanders, and these controlled burns are just one way to adapt to this new threat.

It will be interesting to see just how effective this was in reducing ticks and Lyme disease on the island. If it is successful, I expect many towns will be out burning fields in the future.

I suggested that, if they want to reduce the deer population, that they let hunters, during the deer hunting seasons, shoot more than one deer.

Linda and I love Swan’s Island and wrote several travel columns about this wonderful place. I also did two book talks at their impressive library.

So I wish them much luck in reducing the tick population and cases of Lyme disease. Burn away those ticks!

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,, 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.