Oh deer! Suffolk County towns are monitoring tick population

A grazing deer at Robert Moses state park on Saturday March 9, 2019.

by Louis Walker

As temperatures climb over 40 degrees, Suffolk County Department of Health Services (DHS) will increase communication between 10 local governments in an effort to monitor and combat a reawakening and growing tick population.

Communication among the villages of  Suffolk County, such as East Hampton, Northport and North Haven will be working on surveilling tick and deer populations and providing data for a combat strategy.

“I suspect the increasing and expanding tick populations are directly related, at least in part, to the high and growing deer population in much of Suffolk” Dan Gilrein, an entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County said. “There is also increasing communication among professionals who work with the ticks and tick-borne disease.”

There have been 98,000 reported cases of tick-borne illnesses in New York since the late 1980s according to the New York State department of health. DHS focuses on the surveillance of tick and deer population on LI but does not act in local municipalities.

“We focus on education and surveillance at this level of government,” Grace Kelly McGovern, public relations director of DHS, said. “It’s really up to the towns on what they want to do.”

Suffolk County Department of Vector Control, an affiliate of DHS that handles disease spreading insects, is developing a new tick surveillance program.   The cooperation between village governments allows information and resources to be shared more easily.

“The surveillance program Vector is working on should also, among other things, help us to understand risk and how to place limited resources in a more informed and effective way,” gilrein said. “Research may also find new answers; for example, I’d like to see an effective biological control for these ticks and more selective acaricides.”

Permethrin, a tickicide,is used to help prevent deer exposure to ticks. Two sponge rollers soaked with the tickicide are placed around feeding stations and coat the neck of hungry deer. Tick frequent tall grasses and shrubs common on hiking trails and where deer graze and feed.

“This groundbreaking cooperative project demonstrates the urgent need to arrive at effective methods to managing tick populations and combat tick-borne illness,” Bridget Fleming, Suffolk County Legislator, said. “The project will enhance Suffolk County’s commitment to tackling the devastating and far-reaching impacts of tick-borne disease for Suffolk families”

Expanding suburbia and a growing deer population sparks frequent visits from deer. Deer will eat plants in gardens and prefer heavily fertilized plants.

“When you have deer coming into your yard, there is a chance they’re bringing ticks,” Tamson Yeh of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said at a Tick and Mosquito protection presentation., “fencing is a good idea or you could try to hang reflective tape, or even CDs along their path, anything that will confuse the deer.”


About Louis Walker 2 Articles
Hello, I am Louis Walker. I am a junior journalism major with a concentration in media and society. I love understanding why people have differing opinions and I enjoy engaging in debates with anyone about anything, even what is the best kind of coffee. For a career, I would love to be a documentary film-maker and fiction writer. I enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction books. I find that journalism teaches me how to paint real people in a real setting and that is what I hope to convey in documentaries and even in fiction. I have been enjoying my time at Stony Brook, even as a commuter student.