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Posted: May 4, 2020

Tick talk time

By Danica Roussy

Tick season is here and WildSafeBC would like to provide you with information on ticks in B.C., how to avoid them and what to do if you are bitten.

Ticks unlike other insects have eight legs and they are most abundant in spring and early summer. There are two types of ticks in B.C. known to bite humans: the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the Western black-legged tick.

The Rocky Mountain wood tick can carry diseases but these occurrences are rare in B.C. However, the toxin in the saliva of wood ticks can cause tick paralysis. If the tick is not removed, it can be fatal but if ticks are removed early, the paralysis is reversed and the animal is symptom free.

The Western black-legged tick is the tick known to carry Lyme disease which is caused by a bacteria. The ticks are small and about the size of a sesame seed. The incidence of Lyme disease is believed to be less than one per cent. Most ticks that carry Lyme disease are found along the coast, essentially west of Yale and Boston Bar.

While the incidence of disease in B.C. is low, it is important to take precautions and avoid getting bitten by following some of these preventative tips:

  • Walk on trails and avoid grassy forested areas.
  • Ticks do not drop from trees but climb up to the tips of grasses and brush waiting for a host to come by. They are triggered by vibrations and go ‘questing’ for a host.
  • Wearing light coloured clothing will help you see ticks
  • Tuck your pants into your socks or wear gators. You can apply insect repellent which contains DEET.
  • Be especially wary along game trails or good habitat for rodents. This includes open grassy areas.
  • When you return from your hike, check yourself, children and pets. Ticks will climb up and they may be in your hairline, scalp, folds of skin, under your armpits or knees.

If you find a tick on you, be sure to remove it as soon as possible.

If you know of an area where ticks are found in or near your community, it is best to avoid those areas, if possible. If you do get a tick on you, remove as much as possible by using fine tipped tweezers.

Get as close to the skin as possible and put straight up – do not twist. Do not handle the tick with bare hands and, if you can, keep the live tick in your fridge. Monitor yourself for three to 30 days afterwards for any symptoms such as muscle joint pain, fever, fatigue or a bulls-eye rash.

If you have any of these symptoms seek medical advice and bring the live tick with you for testing.

WildSafeBC would also like to remind everyone that there are ways to prevent ticks from coming into your yard. Ticks need a host to grow, so if you can keep the host out of your yard you are doing well. Ticks can’t travel very far on their own, but their hosts can bring the ticks to you. Ensure your pets are treated for ticks so that they do not bring ticks into your home.

Deer and small mammals are great vectors for ticks and if they are in your yard – there is a good chance ticks may be too. Other hosts include, but are not limited to, mice, ground squirrels, marmots, chipmunks, birds, moose, sheep, pets and even birds. Therefore, managing attractants is a good way to avoid brining in wildlife and ticks to your yard.

Best practices include removing or protecting plants that attract deer, removing hiding spots for small rodents, cutting down tall grass, and managing fruits and other attractive sources of food.

You can also find more information on how to avoid, check for and, remove tick on the BCCDC website.

You can also watch WildSafeBC’s Tick Talk videos. https://wildsafebc.com/video-vault/ 

Lead image: Extracting a tick. Image from BCCDC Website

Danica Roussy is Kimberley/Cranbrook WildSafeBC Community Coordinator

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