Ticks are blood-eating parasites that live and feed on birds, reptiles, and mammals including deer, humans, dogs, cats, horses, and rodents. There are about 850 different types of ticks in the world. Ticks break the skin of their host to feed on their blood. The structure of their mouthparts, which have backwards facing projections, makes them hard to remove.
Ticks look for hosts by "questing," which means they crawl up stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves on the ground with their front legs extended. Ticks do not jump or fly; when a potential host passes by, the ticks climb onto them. Ticks feed for a couple of hours to weeks, depending on the type of host and type of tick.
Ticks can carry and transmit vector-borne diseases such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. The Vector Control Program routinely collects, identifies, and tests ticks for these diseases. If tests come back positive, warning signs are posted to inform the public on how to avoid ticks and protect themselves and their pets from these diseases.
These personal protection measures will help lower exposure to ticks:
Stay on paths and trails
- Ticks are found in grassy, brushy areas and on the plants that line trails
- Keep pets on leash and on trail while hiking
- Don't feed or touch wild animals
Dress protectively when outdoors
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
- Wear light-colored clothing that shows ticks crawling on you
Use insect repellent
- Use repellents containing DEET or Picaridin
- Apply repellent to clothing and exposed skin; follow the directions carefully
Check yourself for ticks
- After you are in a tick-infested area, examine yourself and your companions for ticks and remove them right away
- Tick nymphs may be very small, about the size of a poppy seed
If you find an attached tick, remove it right away using these directions:
- Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull the tick straight out, using a firm, steady motion. Do not twist, squish, or burn an attached tick.
- Apply an antiseptic to the bite area after removing the tick and wash your hands with soap and water.
- Save the tick for identification. Give it to your doctor or contact the Vector Control Program.
- If redness or pain develops at the tick bite site or the tick cannot be removed, consult your doctor.