Vermont surveys tick population

Ticks are out there, looking for someone to grab onto when you're out in the woods.
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 8:42 AM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s bug experts say tick season is now year-round, meaning they’re crawling around right now.

“I found one on my hand right away and said, ‘Oh, gotta get home and do our tick check,’” said Betsy Merrill of South Burlington. “Two days later, I ended up finding one on my daughter’s head.”

The Agency of Agriculture is currently working through their surveying of 48 sites here in Vermont, trying to get a sample of the number of ticks.

“We are focused on human health risks,” said Patti Casey, with the Agency of Agriculture.

Casey says in conjunction with the health department, tick surveying is back again.

“Hotspots absolutely, and this survey we do with the Department of Health is focused on areas where we either see a lot of ticks or we see a lot of disease in the ticks that we do see,” said Casey.

Each site gets hit twice now, and twice again in the fall.

The hunt is for the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick.

Casey says last year did indicate a small jump in population, but the pathogen that causes Lyme disease remains steady, at about 50% of the ticks they find.

“So that’s what we need to find out, how many, where are they and what diseases are they carrying if any,” said Casey.

In recent years, surveys have indicated ticks populate the southern half of Vermont and the western Vermont border. Now, they are marching northeast slowly.

Some soft data from hunters this year indicates there are plenty out there already this year.

While surveys continue, Casey says assume they are around and just about everywhere and take measures to protect yourself.

“There is no reason to not go outside. We live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” said Casey.

For animals, consider a tick collar or tick repellant, but consult your vet first. For yourself, long sleeves and pants tucked into socks are best.

When you’re done outside, get rid of the clothes you had on, and take a shower, checking yourself head to toe for ticks.

“The belief is that if you check yourself every 24 hours, if you’re outdoors, that you will remove a tick before it is able to transmit a disease,” said Casey.

And as one seasoned hiker says, it’s just something you have to be thinking about.

“You can do as much as you can. It doesn’t matter, you just need to be diligent, you feel that little tickle you need to check it right away,” said Merrill.

The state also recommends putting your outdoor clothes in the dryer on high for 20 minutes, because that will kill any of the ticks hitching a ride.

“If you’re going outside, you should wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants. I have a pair of gators that I throw on, tuck your pants into your socks, or into your boots. You can wear an EPA-approved insect repellant, some have DEET. I know not everyone is crazy about that, but there are other compounds that you can use,” said Casey.

If you find a tick, you are able to send it in to the state, but they won’t test it for diseases.

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