how-to-remove-ticksAs a forest owner or land manager you spend lots of time in the woods.

Because known cases of Lyme disease are on the rise in Canada, and we’re a safety-first kind of association, we’ve put together a post about how to identify ticks, how to avoid ticks and how to properly remove a tick should you need to.

What are ticks?

Ticks are tiny bugs, about the size of a sesame seed. They’re arachnids, closely related to spiders, and distinguishable from insects by their eight legs. Ticks can’t fly or jump, but they wait on tall grasses or bushes and attach themselves to humans and animals as they pass by.

Because they need blood to survive, ticks live in areas frequented by potential mammal hosts. Areas with dense deer populations are often hotspots.

Why are ticks a problem?

The trouble with ticks is they carry diseases that can be passed on when they bite. The risk of getting a tick bite is greatest in the spring and into the fall when the weather is warm (but in mild climates without much snow ticks can also be active in the winter).

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America. It takes its name from where it was first identified: Lyme, Connecticut. It can cause serious, long-term disability if left untreated. Early antibiotic treatment is essential, so identification of the disease in its early stages is very important.

Do all ticks carry Lyme disease?

No, not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Two species—Ixodes pacificus found along the western coastal region of Canada, and the more predominant Ixodes scapularis found in the western, central and eastern regions—are most likely to carry the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.

tick-sizes

These two species are commonly referred to as the black-legged tick or deer tick. Their main hosts are deer and white-footed mice, but song birds are widening areas where ticks are found. Both species evolve in four stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult.

You can find more information about identifying ticks on the Canadian Lyme Disease website.

Where to look for ticks on your body?

Ticks prefer warm, moist areas of the body. If a tick latches onto your socks or shoes it will make its way up to your groin area. If your sleeve or arm brushes up against some tick-infested grass, they’ll make their way up to your armpit instead.

Always check these areas first then check the rest of your body. Pay particular attention to any areas that have hair, especially on your head and face. It’s easy for ticks to hide in hair. On both humans and pets, ticks love to attack behind and around the ears.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

When someone is bitten by a tick, it typically takes a week or more for symptoms of lyme disease to show up. The most common symptoms are:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • joint pain
  • swollen lymph glands

The best way to protect against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Ticks favour moist, shaded environments; especially leafy wooded areas and overgrown grassy habitats.

Check this detailed map to find Lyme disease and endemic risk areas in Canada.

Top 8 tick habitat precautions

  1. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your pants.
  2. Check your clothes for ticks often. Ticks will climb upwards until they find an area of exposed skin.
  3. Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.
  4. Walk on pathways or trails when possible staying in the middle. Avoid low-lying brush or long grass.
  5. Apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing, especially at the openings such as ankle, wrist and neck.
  6. Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
  7. Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and your pets.
  8. If you find a tick on your skin, remove it within 24 to 36 hours.

If you’re someone who regularly spends time in high-risk areas, you can find more detailed tips for high-risk areas on the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website.

How to properly remove a tick?

In the video below, University of Manitoba tick expert Kateryn Rochon explains the proper way to remove a tick.