Saskatchewan

Ticks are still out despite winter weather

It's cold, it's rainy, it's even been snowy in many places in the province. But despite fall giving us a full frontal show mere days after it was declared, there's another season that's not quite done yet.

Despite cold temperatures we're still in tick season

As small as a sesame seed, the black-legged tick is black with an orange-brown abdomen. (Ojibway Prairie Complex)

It's cold, it's rainy, it's even been snowy in many places in the province. But despite fall giving us a full frontal show mere days after it was declared, there's another season that's not quite done yet. 

Brace yourself, we're still in tick season. The blood-sucking parasites are still around and, more than ever right now, looking for a warm host. 

Dr. Emily Jenkins, a veterinary microbiologist at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, said fall ticks are the ones to really keep an eye out for. 

The two types of ticks are quite distinct when looked at up-close. (Saskatchewan Health)

The spring to mid-summer stretch most associated with ticks is when the American dog tick is in abundance.

But it's black-legged ticks, also knows as deer ticks, that can carry Lyme disease. These ticks use White-tailed deer as a parasitic host. Saskatchewan isn't known for the Lyme disease carrying tick, but it can show up here.

"It comes on migratory birds in the spring. The ticks are in nymph form, and they drop off the birds along the way," Jenkins said.

In other words, it shows up as an adolescent or teenager, spends the summer partying and then matures by the fall. 

"In its adult stage the black-legged tick is looking for a warm body and a good meal." Jenkins says.

Jenkins helps the province with the black-legged tick surveillance program.

"It's not been a terribly ticky year," she said.

About 1,500 ticks were submitted. Of those, 96 per cent were American dog ticks. There were only two black-legged ticks. Both came from dogs that likely picked up the ticks in another province.

But Jenkins said the fall carries potential for black-legged ticks to show up on humans and dogs.

What will it take to kill ticks?

Jenkins says our climate will kill the Lyme disease carrying black-legged tick.

"That's why we don't have local populations," she said.

But the American dog tick will usually survive the season.

What to do if you find a tick?

They can be sent to the black-legged tick surveillance program. You can find forms and addresses here.

Ticks taken off humans are sent to the Regina lab, while ticks from dogs or other animals are sent to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

Jenkins said people are quite creative when they send in the ticks. One batch came in a Kinder Surprise egg. 

"My favourite was someone that sent us several ticks … in a Tic Tac container." 

One helpful Saskatchewanian used a Tic Tac container to submit sample ticks. (Saskatchewan Health)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon Gerein is the producer for CBC Radio One's The Afternoon Edition in Saskatchewan.

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