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This is how small a deer tick is. Photo: <a href="">André Karwath</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
This is how small a deer tick is. Photo: André Karwath, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Where the ticks are, and what to do

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Jody Gangloff-Kaufman is an entomologist with the state Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University. Her office is on Long Island, where the tick population and the risk of lyme disease is very high.

The Adirondacks may be the only part of the North Country where risk of the lyme disease deer ticks carry is still low. Otherwise, she says, the more deer in an area, the more deer ticks. And deer love agricultural areas, cornfields and alfalfa. She says they, and the ticks they carry, are common in the St. Lawrence and Champlain valleys, "the regions all around the mountains, really, have heavy deer populations and certainly have high incidence of lyme disease."

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Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

And where is a person likely to encounter deer ticks? Where the deer are: shady places, particularly at the forest edge where deer feed. She says adult ticks typically fall off a deer where it beds down. They lay their eggs there, and when the tiny nymphs hitch they like to feed on small mammals. Here’s where the other deer tick host, the white-footed mouse, enters the picture.

As adults, the deer ticks tend to climb up on taller grasses and “quest.” Gangloff-Kaufman says, “that’s when they reach their arms out and wait for a passing host, either a person or a deer and latch on.” 

The ticks are tiny, but it’s important to check yourself and your pets when you come in from the outdoors. They like to hide under clothing, at your hairline, around your waist, anywhere they’re sheltered. If they do bite, there’s a window of 24 to 36 hourse before they become “embedded” and release saliva that carries the Lyme disease and other bacteria.

Gangloff-Kaufman uses DEET-based repellents, spraying her shoes and clothing before going into tick-infested areas. But on Long Island where she lives and works, she says, ticks are such a problem that there are places she just doesn’t go anymore.

Tick Prevention Tips:

  • Wear light-colored clothing with long pants and sleeves.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks, and your shirt into your pants.
  • Use spray repellants as directed on the label.
  • Walk along the center of trails to avoid contact with shrubs or brush.
  • Conduct frequent clothing checks, and carefully inspect your body for ticks.
  • Once home, dry clothing on the highest temperature setting for 10 minutes to kill any ticks.
  • Keep pets from tick infested areas and check them before entering the house.
  • Mow lawns and remove lawn debris and leaf litter.
  • Discourage rodents by reducing cover (e.g., wood piles) and food sources (e.g., bird seed, compost).
  • Move lawn furniture and children’s toys away from the yard edges and wooded areas.

Source: Cornell University Wildlife Damage Management Program


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