Ticks seem to be everywhere when I go hunting. I encounter them in the woods, bushes, high grasses and leaf debris. They need heat and moisture to survive and can sense heat and carbon dioxide from a nearby host animal. There are 80 species of ticks in the United States, but only about a dozen are considered a health threat to humans.
The ticks I encounter the most are the deer tick and the wood tick. The deer tick is the only one of the two that can transmit Lyme disease. The wood tick can transfer Rocky Mountain spotted fever in some areas of North America and is the most commonly found tick in the United States. These ticks hatch from eggs in spring and become nymphs during their first year of life.
Blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks) are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease. And not all of these ticks carry the disease. The tick larva are the most likely to transfer Lyme disease during the late spring and summer, if they become infected with the disease from host animals (commonly mice) once they start consuming blood. The young deer ticks are so small they are hard to detect when they attach themselves to your body. An infected deer tick must bite you for at least 24 hours to pass on Lyme disease.
Several other tick-borne diseases to be aware of in addition to Lyme disease include: Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Colorado Tick Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, Powassan disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), STARI and Tularemia. These diseases are regionally based so are not all present across the entire United States. The types of ticks that spread diseases are: American dog tick, deer tick, brown dog tick, Gulf Coast tick, Lone Star tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and Western blacklegged tick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Lone Star tick is primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. White-tailed deer are a major host of Lone Star ticks. These ticks are identified by a white spot in the middle of their backs.
Ticks are spreading across the United States. The CDC has a lot of great information, including maps and printouts to help hunters.
Easy ways to avoid ticks:
- Wear protective clothing with long sleeves shirts tucked in to your pants.
- Tuck the ends of your pants into your socks or boots to help keep them from getting underneath your clothing.
- Use Permethrin spray on your clothing.
- Keep dirty hunting clothes in your laundry room or stored away.
- Take a shower when you come indoors.
For more on these spring time pests, read “Protecting Yourself From Ticks.” Any GameKeeper will tell you that there is nothing worse than after a day in the field to look down and find a tick. Follow these quick tips on protecting yourself from ticks and enjoy the outdoors!