Heads up - wood ticks are out and about in the Thompson-Okanagan

Tiny blood-suckers are back

Tick season is back in the Okanagan.

Colin Kennedy came across one of the blood-suckers while taking a walk with his dog.

Kennedy was on the Test of Humanity Trail in Summerland last week and came home with an unwanted passenger – a wood tick.

“I just thought it would be good to report it so people start checking their dogs for ticks now that the weather is getting better,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy also reported the tick to eTick.

Anyone who has lived in the B.C. Interior for any length of time has likely had an encounter with a tick or knows someone who has.

They can be found year round, but are most likely to bite from March to June.

Ticks will lie in wait on a branch or tall grass, waiting for an unsuspecting person or animal to brush by. They then latch onto their victim and bury their heads under the skin.

Staying out of the woods is no guarantee you won't encounter ticks.

Rob Higgins, an entomologist with the department of biological sciences at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, says the most common area to find ticks is on grasslands, but they can be found in urban environments as well.

“You can definitely pick them up in town, even when you think you're walking in urban areas, because you’re brushing up against grasses on the side of the sidewalks,” he said.

If a tick has bitten you, Higgins says the best way to remove it is to take a pair of forceps or tweezers, slide them under the tick and pull backwards firmly – but not abruptly.

It will often take about 30 seconds of firm pressure to pull the tick out.

The variety most often found in B.C. is the Rocky Mountain wood tick.

Western black legged ticks, a species which Higgins said exists in low numbers in B.C., can carry Lyme disease. Each year, there are around a dozen Lyme cases discovered in the province, but about half those originate from outside the region.

Ticks can also carry other diseases, such as tick paralysis. According to Higgins, this disease mostly affects animals and he said vets and ranchers see cases each year.

Overall, it’s important to be careful, but most ticks in B.C. aren’t harmful.

“People don’t like ticks, fortunately here we don’t need to worry about them a great deal," he said.

"You definitely want to remove them, you want to keep your eyes on your pets for symptoms of paralysis, but otherwise, we can consider the vast majority of them to be harmless.”

Have you had a close encounter of the insect kind? Email us a picture and we may feature it as Castanet's Bug of the Week.

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