Doing a ‘tick check’ takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to wood tick surveillance across Saskatchewan, especially when ticks are popping up in regions where no one is used to seeing them.
Phil Curry is the chief entomologist with the Ministry of Health and he says the province runs an aggressive surveillance program.
“The dog tick is really expanding its range, so in the last 15 years we’re seeing this tick in areas where people have had no experience with ticks and so they’re just not used to them,” he explained. “They’re not used to looking for them, they don’t even know what they look like.”
Curry said decades ago dog ticks were only found in parts southeast Saskatchewan, they have moved into agricultural areas and up as far north as Shellbrook, Spiritwood and even up to North Battleford.
The tiny black-legged deer ticks that can carry Lyme disease are also creeping into new territory across Canada, but so far they’re still relatively rare in Saskatchewan.The key difference in appearance is that the black-legged deer tick is half the size of a dog tick.
“That tick is expanding its range as well and its now found in parts of Ontario, Quebec, even parts of southern Manitoba – established populations of that tick,” he said. “It is expanding its range, it’s a rapidly evolving situation however, so we are looking for that tick.”
Since 2008, Curry said the province has only captured about 41 black-legged deer ticks among 16,000 they collect. About 10 per cent of those deer ticks have tested positive for the agent that carries Lyme disease. He said so far they have not noticed any significant increase in those tick populations.
“We haven’t detected an established area in the province yet, but we’re certainly looking,” Curry said.
As part of the surveillance program, the health ministry also asks members of the public to submit any suspicious ticks for testing.
You can find more information about the risk of Lyme disease and testing process on the Saskatchewan Health website.