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February 23rd, 2018

We Must Address This Public Health Concern

Dear Editor:

Lyme Disease has spread at an alarming rate in Vermont and continues to grow. According to the Vermont Department of Health, in 2015, Vermont had the highest rate of reported Lyme Disease in the United States. Currently, according to the CDC, Vermont is listed #1 in the country for confirmed cases of Lyme and is designated as an “Endemic State”. In a study done by Doctor Marie J. George of the Infectious Disease Department at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, upwards of 63 percent of ticks are 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. An efficient and cost effective solution is to work with Mother Nature rather than against. That means stopping the recreational and commercial killing of foxes , who are the main predator of white- footed mice who are a major transmitter of Lyme Disease.

Research studies show 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/commercial killing of foxes in Vermont, there is a likelihood we will see a decline in the spread of Lyme Disease and other tick borne illnesses. When there are more foxes on the landscape preying on mice this results in fewer mice transmitting Lyme Disease.

It also must be noted that hundreds of foxes are likely killed each year in Vermont, yet the VT Fish & Wildlife Department has inadequate data on this since little to no reporting is required. The Department also lacks data on population trends of foxes, which means they cannot give an accurate estimate if fox populations are healthy and thriving. These animals are viewed as throwaways and I would like to see more value placed on them for the vital role they play in our ecosystems.

This safe and sensible policy of halting the sport killing of foxes may have tremendous and lifesaving results for the health and safety for Vermont residents.

The health benefits of establishing a moratorium on the sport killing of foxes to the entire population of Vermont far outweigh any recreational benefits experienced by a small fraction of Vermonters who kill them. No one can equate the paltry price of a fox pelt to 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.

Lindzey B., Wolcott VT

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