Thunder Bay

Victoria Day 2015: The unofficial start to tick season

The long holiday weekend marks the beginning of camping season across Ontario. But it also signals the start of tick season.
Deer ticks carry Lyme disease and are more common in southern Ontario than in the north and northwest.

The long holiday weekend marks the beginning of camping season across Ontario. But it also signals the start of tick season.

Dr. Andrew Peregrine, of the Ontario Veterinary College, says the area near Kingston is a hotbed for ticks right now.

Ticks carry Lyme disease and that's a concern.

Other areas with lots of ticks and Lyme disease are Long Point, straight south of Brantford on the shores of Lake Erie, where 60 per cent of ticks are infected; nearby Turkey Point; and Point Pelee National Park, in Leamington, where the deer population is booming.

Peregrine said even just travelling in those hot spots in southern Ontario can "dramatically" increase your risk for Lyme disease and bringing ticks home.

Ken Deacon, an entomologist in Thunder Bay, says many hikers and campers in northwestern Ontario still get quite concerned when they find a tick on their body - or on a pet.

"Thunder Bay actually has more ticks than a lot of places in southern Ontario," Deacon says.
Deacon says there were no ticks in Thunder Bay 15 years ago. Today he says the community now sees 1,000 ticks a year.

"That's quite significant." Deacon says.

But for the most part, Deacon says very few deer ticks, the ones that carry Lyme disease, are found in the northwest.

"We have a lot of the American wood ticks or the American dog tick. We don't have many of the black legged ticks, also called the deer tick. That's the one that carries Lyme disease," Deacon said. "Just from the surveys we've done last year, we haven't found any black legged ticks, yet. But, I suspect we will."

"The highest risk area, as far as we're aware .... would be eastern Ontario," Peregrine said.
Peregrine recommends speaking with a vet about vaccinations before taking a dog for a walk or hike where ticks may be found.

Peregrine says the other way to protect yourself and your pet from ticks this year is to do a thorough tick check after being outside.

Ways to protect yourself from ticks, according to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit:

  • Avoid places with long grasses.  If you are hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
  • Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to find the ticks.
  • Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts that fit tightly around your wrists and long pants tucked into your socks.
  • Use an insect repellant with DEET.
  • Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks after being outdoors. Check before you go into your house. Check head to toe. Check underneath your clothes, next to your skin. 
  • Have a hot shower after checking for ticks.
  • Wash your clothes with hot water and use the hottest setting on your dryer to kill any ticks that you may have missed.