23 May 2023
Now that the weather has settled a bit, it is time to get back to the outdoors. That means it is also time to be on the lookout for the deer tick. Most at risk are those who will travel in the same areas that deer like to enhabit. That includes hunters, fishers, pets, and anyone who likes to wander through the brush and usually off the marked paths.
Ticks prefer shady, moist areas and stay close to ground level although they may attach themselves to tall grass, brush, and shrubs.
The deer tick is a tiny insect that is found throughout the East and northern states. It is small, about the size of a pinhead, but carries several diseases that will affect both humans and animals, including Lyme disease. While it is primarily hosted by whitetail deer, it is also found on mice, black bears, and birds, including turkeys.
Only the female tick bites and is a parasite. She has a life cycle of two years and as she passes through larva, nymph, and into an adult. She will attach herself to a host and suck their blood for four or five days. Then full, she will drop off until she needs to feed again.
These insects don’t fly or jump but rather grab onto a likely target. Then she makes her way to a place where it can easily attach itself and feed, including a human scalp. It takes about a day for a tick to attach and start to feed, so there is a window when it can be easily removed. If you miss that opportunity, the head will become embedded into the skin of the host (human or animal) and it becomes quite difficult to disengage.
The April 2017 issues of American Hunter offers a procedure to remove a tick. Wet the tip of a cotton swab. Appling light pressure to one side of the tick’s body with the swab, push the insect in circles around the point where the tick’s mouth is attached. Don’t twist and remove the body from the head. After several revolutions, the tick will disengage of its own volition but still intact. Destroy the tick and wash the area around the bite with soap and water, iodine, or rubbing alcohol.
For humans, there are some measures you can take.
- Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave so that you can easily find the ticks before they get to your skin. Long pants, with legs tucked into socks and/or boots, a long-sleeved shirt tucked into pants will also help.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- Check yourself or others frequently.
- Insect repellents
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
- Do a final, thorough body check at the end of the day and remove any ticks promptly.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible.
Dogs are particularly susceptible to ticks and their diseases. There are vaccines that will prevent your pets from getting sick, but not from bringing the insects into your home. Speak with your veterinarian about the best preventatives. Check your dog daily and remove the ticks promptly. Reduce the habitat in your landscaping if at all possible. Keep a careful eye for changes in appetite or behavior.
Cats are extremely sensitive to many chemicals. If you have an outdoor cat, or are around feral felines, check with your vet to determine the best products and develop a good plan of action.
If you do find a tick, use a pair of tweezers or wear disposable gloves to remove it from your pet. You can become infected through even a small paper cut when handling these little devils.
If you or a member of your family develop a rash or flu-like symptoms, go to urgent care or an emergency room. Explain the circumstances and the possible exposure to ticks. This is particularly important in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.