Beyond Your Backyard. Tick Awareness Time!
Kimberly J. Epp
Ticks can be real pricks. There's no getting around it. Having contracted Lyme disease 18 years ago in a country that denies chronic Lyme treatment, I think I can be a little upset by these tiny invasive black-legged ticks. Every year, migrating birds bring more tiny ticks into our areas. Every fall, one female lays up to 3,000 eggs. And our cold winters don't kill these nasty needles of nature. Plus we have no tick predators. The ticks can come out of hibernation when it as warm as 4 degrees Celsius, so we can be expecting them out very soon.
We have two species of ticks in Saskatchewan - the Wood/Dog Tick and the Deer/Black-Legged Tick. They have a shell-like exterior and bury their heads into hosts to get a tasty blood meal. Deer Ticks can be as small as freckles. Ticks live in habitats frequented by potential mammal hosts. Ticks hang onto grasses and wait for a passing mammal victim to approach them, whether it’s a human, a pet or wildlife.
Ticks do not jump or fly, but rather crawl upward. Ticks are becoming more and more prevalent in our area. Give your dogs preventative medicine before going into long-grassed areas. Ticks are parasites that can cause serious diseases. Lyme disease and other co-infections can be transmitted to pets as well as wildlife. With climate change, ticks and the diseases they carry will only become more prevalent.
If you come across a wild animal with engorged ticks, call the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan's wildlife hotline at (306) 242-7177 or advice on what to do. They may advise you to bring the small animal to a wildlife rehabber in your area. They will give advice on how to catch the animal. Usually then they will advise you to put it into a dark box with rags, towels or blankets - and to keep the box away from pets or children.
Small mammals are most susceptible - and can die from blood loss. Animals cannot remove the ticks and have to wait until they fall off after the ticks are fully engorged. Small rabbits and baby skunks are often victims of ticks. Larger mammals, such as moose have been found with over 10,000 ticks. They often rub against trees to try and rid themselves of the ticks, thus causing fur loss.
If you are bitten by a tick, despite what some doctors will say, 3 weeks of antibiotics is not sufficient and the infection can come back. You may not even know you were bitten, but usually you will see a bulls-eye rash in the infected area. You may not get sick right away. Sometimes the infection only comes to light after your immune system is down - such as after a case of the flu. This can even occur months after being bitten. Finding a lyme-literate doctor is thus extremely important.
In Moose Jaw the contact is Dr. Melanie Blager at Wild & Cared Free Wildlife rehab. 24 hour hotline through the Moose Jaw Animal Clinic. 692-3622.