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Letter to the editor: Hunting, trapping foxes counter to fighting Lyme disease

As someone who enjoys spending time outdoors here in Vermont, I was very concerned to learn that the Green Mountain State has the second highest rate of reported cases of Lyme disease in the country. This fact became even more concerning when I learned that the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has little to no data on the population of Vermont’s foxes, animals who are scientifically proven to curb the spread of Lyme disease. In Vermont, there is no limit on the number of foxes that can be hunted or trapped. I find this policy to be backwards and ill informed, considering the ecological services that foxes provide to the people of Vermont.
Humans can contract Lyme disease when bitten by a blacklegged tick. Ticks are not born infected with Lyme disease; they are only infected when they feed on an organism that carries Lyme, such as white-footed mice. White-footed mice carry Lyme disease and transmit it to ticks, which in turn spread it to humans. But foxes disrupt this cycle by hunting these mice, which reduces both the mice population and level of activity. This two-fold impact means that foxes are very efficient in reducing the amount of blacklegged ticks that are infected with Lyme.
A petition to establish a moratorium on fox hunting and trapping in Vermont is circulating throughout our state because of the role foxes play in reducing the spread of Lyme. I urge you to google: “Vermont Petition Stop the Sport Killing of Foxes & Help Combat Lyme Disease” and add your name to the growing list of residents who support this initiative.
Why should such a small proportion of Vermont’s populace, hunters and trappers of fox, be allowed to rob our landscapes of an animal who may be our greatest ally in our fight against Lyme disease?
Emma Hopkins
Burlington

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