Is the threat of Lyme Disease opening the door for more deer hunting opportunity and acceptance?

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Beth Webb knew there was more to her boy’s stiff neck and fever than met the eye, but only when his temperature jumped to 107 degrees and he wound up in a hospital emergency room did she spot the telltale red bull’s-eye of a tick bite on his chest. Then more appeared. “As we were sitting there, bull’s-eyes were just popping up all over his body,” Webb said. Her son, Ashton, 7, went home from Newton-Wellesley Hospital with antibiotics and appears to have fully recovered, but the Dover family’s battle with deer ticks – and the Lyme disease they carry – remains in full swing.

Guinea hens, which eat ticks, patrol their yard. Tick checks have become part of the routine at soccer fields and playgrounds. And the Webbs are on the front line of a growing effort to curb the spread of Lyme disease through deer hunting. Not only does their yard back up against the Noanet Woodlands, a reservation once closed to all hunting but now included in Dover’s bow-hunting program, but the Webbs have allowed two hunters to set up tree stands on their property. “I have never been for hunting before. Not ever. But it has to be done,” Webb said. Now she serves on the town’s Lyme Disease Committee, which is considering asking the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to expand hunting in Massachusetts, even as the accidental shooting of a woman by a hunter in Norton rekindles the debate over its place in such a heavily populated state.