Extraordinary high rates of Lyme disease in Uist has sparked demands for a cull of
red deer suspected of spreading the illness.
Health board figures show around 165 residents of Uist have been diagnosed with the
illness over a four year period compared to just one case in the more populated island
of Lewis and Harris.
A consultation on controlling deer in the area ends this weekend and a management
plan will be finalised shortly.
The Uist Deer Management Group which proposes culling numbers by a third says one
person every week is being diagnosed in Uist when it should be just one case every
four years in such a small population.
The group has already agreed on a “zero tolerance approach to deer in immediate proximity
to human residence or confined public spaces such as gardens, villages, school playgrounds,
parks” which includes shooting.
It proposes reducing numbers by over 30% over the next few years.
Lyme disease - also known as Lyme borreliosis - is a serious bacterial infection
spread to people by infected ticks. Severe symptoms affect the heart, nervous system
as well as causing pain and swelling in joints.
Islanders are convinced the spread of the illness is linked to the increasing number
of marauding red deer which are now coming down off the hill to roam around villages.
Deer do not directly carry the disease but they are known to host infected ticks
which are then brought into residents’ gardens and crofts.
Deer numbers in one island - North Uist - have more than doubled since 1991 with
over 1,000 animals roaming around the place.
A 2015 count on South Uist estate estimated a population of 778 deer.