According to Danica Roussy, WildSafeBC’s community coordinator for Kimberley-Cranbrook, ticks are unlike many other insects. Ticks have eight legs and they are most abundant in spring and 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.,” says Roussy. “However, the toxin in the saliva of wood ticks can cause tick paralysis. If the tick is not removed, it can be fatal. If ticks are removed early, the paralysis is reversed and the animal is symptom free.”
She adds that the western black-legged tick is the tick known to carry Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacteria. The ticks are small – 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 chance of getting Lyme disease is relatively low, WildSafeBC says that it’s still important to make sure that you take precautions to avoid getting bit by a tick.
Roussy recommends walking on marked trails and avoiding grassy, forested areas.
“Ticks to not drop from trees but [rather] climb up to the tips of grasses and brush, waiting for a host to come by,” Roussy explained. “They are triggered by vibrations and go ‘questing’ for a host.”
Wearing light coloured clothing can help you spot a tick if it does find its way to your body.
Tucking your pant legs into your socks or wearing gators can also help, along with wearing insect repellent that contains DEET.
“Be especially wary along game trails or habitats that are good for rodents. This includes open, grassy areas,” Roussy said. “When you return from a hike, check yourself, children and pets. Ticks will climb up and can be found in your hairline, scalp, folds of skin or under your armpit or knees.”
If you know of an area where ticks are found in and around your community, it is best to avoid those areas if possible, Roussy says, adding that it’s important to remove the tick as soon as possible if you do find one on your body.
“If you do get a tick on you, remove as much as possible with fine tipped tweezers. Get as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up – do not twist,” Roussy explained. “Do not handle the tick with bare hands and, if you can, keep the live tick [in a container] 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 shaped rash. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical advice and bring the live tick with you for testing.”
WildSafeBC says there are ways to prevent ticks from coming to your yard by managing attractants.
“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,” Roussy said.
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, 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.