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Stop the Sport Killing of Foxes & Help Combat Lyme Disease!

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Currently, VT is listed as the #1 state in the U.S for confirmed Lyme Disease cases according to the CDC. New research regarding the increase of mice population in connection to the decrease of key rodent predators, such as foxes, has prompted me to request that the Fish & Wildlife Board halt the recreational and commercial trapping and hunting of foxes. This moratorium will likely help reduce human exposure to the diseases contracted by ticks who feed heavily on mice, a major host. Mice are key hosts for ticks and they infect up to 95% of ticks that feed on them. Increasing mice populations means a higher likelihood to contract tick borne illnesses. Predators, such as foxes will help reduce mice becoming hosts and break the cycle of further spreading tick borne diseases. 

Foxes not only kill what they’ll immediately eat, but they kill and cache large quantities of mice for future consumption. A recent study revealed that the very presence of foxes on the landscape may impede mice mobility - a greater presence of foxes cause mice to spend more time hiding (refuging), which means less time roaming and becoming key hosts for ticks. Disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, Dr. Richard Ostfeld, and Dr. Holt, ecologist with University of Florida, reason that predators can reduce disease transmission by lowering the density of reservoir-competent hosts, such as mice and other rodents.  “The takeaway is, we shouldn’t underestimate the role predators can play in reducing Lyme disease risk,” said Ostfeld who originally speculated on the importance of small mammal predators in a 2004 paper. “Let’s not discount these cryptic interactions that we don’t see very often unless we put camera traps in the woods.” (1)

Recreational killing of foxes, including leghold trapping, that only serves a small portion of people living in VT (less than 1%), must not take priority over the health and the interests of the general public. Per the North American Fur Auction's 2017 fur sale, red fox prices are down, with 100% of the offering selling for averages of $13-17. Very few grey fox sold at all. Also, foxes are not killed for food, so why are they killed at all when they offer the potential of helping Vermont fight its Lyme epidemic?

Foxes face a host of dangers from predators, such as fishers and eagles, to human-caused mortality, including cars and landowners killing in defense of property. Fox's populations are managed based on available food and habitat; their presence on our landscapes is much more valuable alive than dead. Vermont Fish & Wildlife has little to no data on the number of foxes who are hunted or trapped each year, including those foxes who are killed under the nuisance wildlife provision.

In conclusion, the human health benefits of this proposal far outweigh any recreational benefits that a small number of Vermonters may experience. We have nothing to lose with this moratorium and so much to gain. For further reading on research as to the importance of predators in managing the spread of Lyme visit: Cascading effects of predator activity on tick-borne disease risk.

This moratorium will not impact a landowner's right to kill foxes in defense of property under V.S.A. 10, §4828.

1: New York Times | Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy? It Might Be Foxes | 8.2.2017



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