WINNIPEG – An increased mouse population in combination with warmer temperatures is creating the ideal conditions for ticks, according to a local expert.
Ryus St. Pierre, a volunteer tick surveyor with the Manitoba Lyme Disease Group says it’s going to a particularly bad year for ticks in Manitoba – so campers, bikers and hikers beware.
On Thursday, he found 13 adult ticks near the Seine River Greenway in the south end of Winnipeg. He said he’s never collected that many blacklegged-ticks anywhere in Manitoba in one day.
Blacklegged-ticks, also commonly known as deer ticks, can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The reason for the rise in ticks is because of an increased mouse population, St. Pierre said.
“Mice and other small rodents are the main host of the larvae and nymph blacklegged. Essentially if there are more mice more ticks will survive.”
If you mix the mouse population with the heavy snowfalls and relatively mild-winter, this also allows more ticks to survive the cold, St. Pierre said.
“When ticks are out this early, it’s longer time for people to get infected,” Jan Cmela with the Manitoba Lyme Disease Group said.
Ticks usually don’t come out until the temperatures reach around 4 C, Cmela said. It temperatures are below freezing, ticks will stay in the ground.
“The warmer our winter, the more insulated they are. They had a fairly decent winter this season too,” Cmela said.
Cmela added the ticks the group is looking for are known as deer or black-legged ticks. This is not to be confused with wood ticks, which are bigger and do not carry Lyme disease, she said.
WATCH: Winnipeggers cautioned to watch out for ticks
Dr. Richard Baydack from Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living said the key is to check for ticks as soon as you’ve been in the bush. If you find one and pull it off right away, the odds of contracting Lyme disease are very low, because the tick usually feeds within 24 hours.
Blacklegged ticks are most commonly found in wooded or forested areas, as these locations give them with a humid habitat in which to survive. If you’re in the areas it is important to:
- Use trails, whenever possible, and stay to the centre of hiking trails or paths.
- Wear light-coloured long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Tuck in clothing (pants and socks) to create a barrier.
- Use an appropriate tick repellent.