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Students join in to fight tick-borne illnesses: Poster contest is tool for community education

Education is seen as a key to deal with deer and tick problems on the Island and, under the leadership of Julia Weisenberg, it’s been a major focus this year.

Ms. Weisenberg started offering Zoom sessions on cooking venison that proved popular and has now engaged staffers from Shelter Island School and Mashomack Preserve volunteers and staff members in a new program educating students and parents on how to protect themselves from tick bites that can result in Lyme and other diseases.

The most recent hunting season resulted in culling fewer deer from the herd, partially because of fewer hunters engaged in the sport and fewer deer in the herd, requiring those who were hunting to spend more time in the field, Deer & Tick Committee members have said.

Add to that the inability to use 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — now banned by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Those factors brought education to the forefront.

To kick off the effort, students each received plush tick key chains, Ms. Weisenberg said.

A poster in the school advises: “Don’t Let a Tick Make You Sick.”

This is a season when ticks proliferate and it’s important that people be aware to take steps to avoid them — wearing proper protective clothing and inspecting themselves after hiking through areas where they are prevalent.

But one poster doesn’t have enough power to spread the word, so students are being invited to enter their own posters in a “Tick Bite Prevention” contest. Their challenge is to create posters that reflect lessons they’re learning from staffers Cindy Belt and Beca Kusa at The Nature Conservancy at Mashomack.

Ms. Belt and Ms. Kusa have taught some fun lessons using life-like props to make the education session memorable.

Students are being encouraged to share their projects with their families and friends. Everyone is being encouraged to look at a homeowners guide and to visit the Town’s website where they will find several places to visit to learn more about tick-borne diseases and what preventative products are most effective. The site is available at the town website at shelterislandtown.us — click on the committees tab for the Deer & Tick page.

Students were told they could use materials of their choice in creating the posters with the entries completed by last Friday. Three winners will have their work displayed at Town Hall and on social media and will receive gift certificates from a local vendor, Ms. Weisenberg said. Education subcommittee members will be judging the posters with an announcement of winners made in early June.