Anecdotal reports are coming in from Tahoe and Truckee about an increase in ticks in the area. I heard firsthand reports of ticks in Glenshire, Squaw Valley, Tahoe City, Boca, Stampede and Donner Summit. So how do we prepare?
The two species of tick most commonly found in our area are the American dog tick and the western black-legged tick. Dog ticks are thought to be most common and are carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Black-Legged ticks carry Lyme disease and in 2016 the California Department of Public Health collected one from the Sagehen area near Truckee. Hopefully he was alone but many expect him to have friends on the way.
How do ticks get on you or your pet? Ticks do what is called questing. Ticks can’t jump and they can’t fly. They’d be lousy at basketball. Instead, they climb to the edge of a blade of grass leaving their front legs exposed so they can walk right on to you or your unsuspecting pet. Pets and other animals are more likely to pick up ticks if they roam grassy areas. Once on your body, ticks seek out warm crevices. They secrete substances in their saliva that make it so you don’t feel that tick bite when it occurs, and once they start feeding they tend to stick around for a few days.
Angella Falco, field station manager with Placer County Mosquito and Vector Control District, has been conducting tick surveillance in the Truckee area this summer. One method of collecting ticks for study is called flagging. A piece of canvas about the size of a flag is dragged over an area. Ticks are then sorted and collected for study.
Placer residents are also encouraged to take pictures and report tick sightings to the district via email or social media. Once a report is received Falco will flag the suspected tick habitat. The results so far this summer? Not a single tick. It has also been a hot, dry summer. Ticks like humidity and a spike in activity is expected once we get some rain this fall. While we may have struck out so far locally, it seems clear that tick habitats are expanding and incidences of tick-borne diseases are also increasing.
But, finding a tick on your pet is not necessarily a reason for treatment with pesticides, according to local veterinarian Dr. Wendy Robinson of Tahoe Integrative Veterinary Care in Truckee. The clinic carries essential oils that act as a tick repellent for her clients. She has noticed an increase in ticks the last few years but still in numbers that are far less than in places like Auburn or even Reno.
Heading to tick country? Placer County recommends using a 20 percent DEET insect repellent. Cover exposed skin and wear light colored clothing. Do frequent tick checks in the days following your visit. If found, remove ticks as soon as possible with tweezers. If a tick is removed within 24 to 36 hours it is unlikely to transmit Lyme disease. But it seems this is a growing problem. According to Falco, the type of ticks that transmit Lyme have been found on every trail in the foothills. They may be moving to your neighborhood next.