Saint John city staff are looking for ways to control the deer population amid fears of the spread of Lyme disease in suburban Millidgeville.

"I think it's getting worse," said Coun. John MacKenzie, author of a motion requesting staff investigate the possibilities.

"I'm hearing things like, 'You can't plant a garden, the kids can't use the backyard because we're worried about ticks, deer droppings,the deer are running out in front of cars,'" MacKenzie said.

Potential solutions could include a contraceptive vaccine or even trapping and moving the animals to rural areas, he said.

'They would step onto my deck and they'd be eating herbs from the herb pot on our wooden deck.' - Geoff Mitchell, Saint John

MacKenzie worried people would immediately assume Saint John wants hunters to cull the deer population, a method used in Kennebecasis Valley communities under the provincial nuisance deer management program.

"Some areas do that," he said. "I don't know if that's appropriate for an urban area."

A cull would be just fine with Geoff Mitchell, who lives in the Cedar Point subdivision in Millidgeville.

Backyard bite

He was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2010 after a tick bite he believes occurred in his backyard.

Over the course of a single day, a pain in his groin developed to the point he could no longer walk.

"I thought I had a hernia," said Mitchell. 

A large bull's-eye rash on his thigh led to a speedy diagnosis in the outpatient department and a 12-day course of antibiotics.

There's no question in Mitchell's mind that the ticks are being transported by the ever-present local deer.

"They were literally walking on my back deck," he said. "They would step onto my deck and they'd be eating herbs from the herb pot on our wooden deck."

councillor John MacKenzie

Coun. John MacKenzie composed a motion asking city staff to study ways to control the size of the deer population, which has become quite visible in parts of the city. (CBC)

He has since cleared and fenced his yard, worried especially for his three children.

"I want to live in a place where my kids can go out back and build a tree house," Mitchell said. "And we won't let them do that."

A cull of the deer population would not have the support of Saint John's deputy mayor, Shirley McAlary.

"I just have a big issue if we harm deer in any way," she said. "I just couldn't live with the fact that somebody would be out with the bow and arrow or some other method."

Testing 1,000 ticks a year

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's acting chief medical officer of health, said the seven Lyme cases confirmed this year are comparable to the number in previous years.

All of the cases have been in Health Protection Region South, which spans an area from east of Sussex to the U.S. border.

About 1,000 ticks are submitted for examination by Public Health every year.

Russell said that between 75 and 80 per cent of them are black-legged ticks and about 12 per cent of those are found to be positive for the disease, which is "comparable to infectivity rates in black-legged ticks seen throughout Canada."

Maybe his ears were burning? Deer makes mid-interview cameo0:51