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Downtown Deer

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

deer don't carry or transmit this affliction, but deer carry a tick that spreads the disease. Researchers believe larger numbers of deer have allowed the tick population to grow, helping spread Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

About 600 deer browse in the 2.5 square mile peninsula town New Haven, Conn., for example, and researchers estimate that more than half of the people there have had or have Lyme disease. Lyme disease has yet to reach epidemic proportions in Missouri, as it has in some eastern states, but every year sees an increase in the number of cases reported in the state.

Deer aren't attracted to the cities, the way that people are. Instead, their numbers tend to increase where food is plentiful and predators are few. Mature female deer - does - have twin fawns every spring. Where survivability is high, deer numbers can increase rapidly. Our urban areas provide abundant food and protection from hunters and other predators.

Even when food is sparse or competition for available food is high, deer continue to multiply. Areas that have been stripped of vegetation still can have too many deer. They just don't grow as large and usually you can see their ribs.

Those skinny deer have outnumbered the carrying capacity of their environment, much like stunted fish in a pond. Wildlife managers worry about overpopulation, because it could lead to mass starvation and outbreaks of disease, but they also are concerned with the cultural carrying capacity of the places where those deer live.

Cultural Capacity

Cultural carrying capacity has to do with how people feel about deer. Missourians currently are overwhelmingly in favor of protecting deer. They like to see them, to hunt them.

But people can get too much of a good thing, especially when that good thing makes it impossible to landscape their yards, grow a garden or drive safely at night.

People who once welcomed the sight of deer may, after seeing them demolish their yard, begin to resent them and look for ways to get rid of them.

In many other communities, especially east of the Mississippi, deer have gone beyond the cultural carrying capacity of their environment. Residents of communities with high numbers of deer no longer view them as unique and beautiful creatures, they see them as troublesome pests.

We don't want our deer to lose their value to Missourians, so the Conservation Department

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