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Petitioners Take Aim at Deer Herd

Oh deer, it seems Peter Knight and a number of other Westport residents are gunning for Bambi. After listening to supporters and opponents of Knight's plan to wipe out the town's deer herd, the RTM sent the topic to two committees for review.

Knight centered his argument on Lyme disease, something many in the audience had personal experience with. He suggests a simple solution for a simple problem. "If there are no deer in the area, the number of deer ticks will decline over time," Knight said.

Others weren't so certain his desire to purge the herd would actually reduce human infections. Dr. Michelle LaMothe, a veterinarian, argued that when deer populations go down the number of people suffering bites go up. "It's a complicated issue. The studies [Knight and his supporters] quoted all took place on islands. Westport is not an island," LaMothe said, adding that all the research done on the mainland came back inconclusive.

Most everyone agreed that Lyme disease is a serious problem. Knight detailed a few possible methods to deal with the deer that host the ticks that transmit the illness. Introducing natural predators like wolves was "obviously impractical" he said. Feeding stations that distribute a pesticide and paid sharp shooters both carried a large expense and uncertain results. Repealing the town's no-hunting ordinance and letting the venison loving public take care of the problem, however, seems reasonable to him.

Knight submitted a petition of more than 200 names to the RTM to force them to look into methods of controlling the deer. By the end of the evening, RTM Moderator Hadley Rose sent the issue to the Public Protection and the Health and Human Services Committees for review. He doesn't expect recommendations from them until October.

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