Ticks in winter a startling site

We took the dogs for a run two days ago — February 17 — and when we got back we found a huge, engorged tick on Opie. Later, when I was downloading some photos at Dunkin’ Donuts, ANOTHER tick nonchalantly trotted past me (and it must have come off of me, of course).

So our wishful thinking that the awful, brutal cold would tamp down the tick population is, obviously, unfounded.

So I’m posting this article I wrote last year, when I was started by ticks in early March. I thought that was horrible and this year ticks are here even three weeks earlier.

The picture is of one of of several ticks that were on my jacket during that March hike last year.

Published: March 5, 2017

By Bob Quarteroni

Winter, what winter? I was at Frances Slocum State Park two weeks ago, on some of the lesser-traveled trails off Green Road. It was 64 record-breaking degrees.

In shorts, I was kneeling and taking some moss photos when a tick walked across the camera lens. I was agog. Must be one strange tick to be out this early, I thought.

But then I picked up four more during the walk.

What’s going on here? Ticks are getting worse, year after year, but I don’t remember experiencing any before April, certainly not seven weeks into the new year.

It’s scary and it portends an ugly year of bites, bullseye-rashes and too many visits to the doctors.

The storm is centered squarely on us: In 2016, the commonwealth logged 12,092 cases of Lyme disease, which account for more than one-third the cases reported across the country, ranking Pennsylvania first nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s bad all over the state, but in some tick hot spots around here, like the Bear Creek woods where we run the dogs, it’s a virtual plague.

Even with the best tick protection we could buy, we pulled 14 ticks off our rescue dog Molly after one walk last summer.

Despite full body searches, showers, and everything I can do to stop the little Lyme Marys, I got bit bad twice, once — unbelievably — on the eyelid. Getting up in the morning with a blurry eye and going to a mirror and seeing a swollen tick on your eyelid is not the way you want to start your day.

How did this pestilence get to this stage?

I think it is the effect of global warming allowing tick populations to explode.

I blame global warming since I never remember seeing a tick when I was growing up. In fact, I don’t remember seeing one until perhaps 20 years ago.

This is such a recent epidemic that the first case nationally, in Connecticut, wasn’t even reported until 1975. To go from one case nationally 47 years ago to more than 12,000 in one state today is mind-boggling.

A sample result from the National Defense Research Council, says “A longer warm-weather season and changing rainfall patterns are allowing the insects that can transmit disease to humans to thrive for longer periods each year — and to simultaneously move into broader areas …”

The National Wildlife Foundation issues this dire warning: “With a lust for blood and a penchant for warm weather, deer ticks will encroach on more land than ever before, thanks to climate change. Milder winters are projected to increase the range of deer tick populations by 68 percent in North America by later this century.”

Of course, other factors are at work, including an exploding deer mouse population and more suburbs disrupting forest land and the animals that live there. But it seems that the 800-pound gorilla in tickland is global warming.

And there’s little doubt it is a real phenomenon.

As NASA states, “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

But, that doesn’t faze the Republican party, which takes a flat-earth stance when it comes to climate change, channeling President Donald Trump, who famously claimed global warming was a hoax dreamed up by the Chinese to steal jobs.

He’s parroted by GOP leaders from Sen. Ted Cruz — “a pseudo-scientific theory” — to our own Sen. Pat Toomey, who said “I think (the cause of global warming) is still very much disputed, and it’s been debated.”

What can we do? Tell the GOP enablers just what we think, that their anti-scientific attitude is biting us, hard, and we don’t want to take it anymore.

And let them know, when the next election comes around, the sound they’ll be hearing from voters is “tick-tock, tick-tock,” when we have a chance to take a bite out of our real problem.

 tickBob Quarteroni is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at wildlife@timesshamrock.com.

 

 

Author: luzerne2112

As I get older -- and I'm 70 now -- I seem to find more and more that nature is the true source of peace, inspiration and, most of all, the truth the passeth understanding. Though my knowledge is sketchy and superficial, I wanted to share it while I can.

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