Editorial: This summer, experts predict a bad tick season

Ticks and tick-borne diseases have been a widely discussed health problem across the East End for decades. Lyme disease, carried by the common deer tick — which is transported on the bodies of white-tail deer and mice — has caused serious health concerns.

But other types of ticks are also here now, carrying new and dangerous pathogens. Experts say the lone star tick is flourishing across the region. You can identify the lone star variety and by the small white dot on its back. It’s a sickening sight.

Pointing to the recent mild winter, experts are warning that this season could be particularly bad for ticks and the diseases they bring along with them. The winters of the past, when Peconic Bay froze solid, are behind us. It’s doubtful they will ever return, and we are living with the consequences.

Stony Brook University Hospital officials say they treated tick bites throughout the winter, and saw many in April, which is normally a quiet month for tick issues. A warm winter followed by a hot summer will make the problem far worse, they say.

The experts’ warnings were echoed recently in an alarming Newsday story reporting that the lone star tick is gaining ground on Long Island. While these ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, lone stars do carry pathogens that can cause, among other symptoms, meat allergies in those they infect.

Plus, the experts say, a new pathogen has been found in these ticks — Rickettsia amblyommatis — which increases the potential danger they present. In addition, experts have now documented the presence of the Asian longhorned tick on Long Island. A new invader, here to cause further alarm.

We have written about the North Fork’s deer problem in this space many times. They are a profound health crisis — one that intensifies every spring as more are born. There are so many deer in both Riverhead and Southold that nearly everyone sees them on their property, hanging around their yards, destroying their flower beds and home gardens — and leaving ticks behind. 

Nearly every evening for the past few weeks, more than a dozen deer have gathered in front of one Cutchogue homeowner’s property. Where there are deer, there are ticks; where there are ticks, there are pathogens that make us sick. Bambi is not your friend.

Truth is, there are thousands more deer than the environment can handle; they have become like the seagulls at the landfill. The problem has been made worse by the fences farmers and vineyard owners have had to erect to keep the deer from destroying their crops. This has simply pushed the deer into residential neighborhoods and backyards.

Unless the North Fork sees an emergence of deer-eating coyotes — which have been sighted west of the North Fork — and unless the state changes the rules so that many more deer can be hunted, the threat they pose to our health will only grow worse. We don’t need any more deer counts, any more misguided attempts to somehow treat female deer with birth control. We need to act to prevent this crisis from getting worse.

Meanwhile, New York Senate Bill 4804, and a matching Assembly bill, which directs the DEC to establish a deer management program in Southold, remains unacted upon. And recess is coming up. Someone needs to put their foot down. Enough is enough.