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Beware of Blacklegged Ticks in Deer Woods

December 3, 2011
By Larry Claypool - OVO Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

State health officials are warning hunters to look out for a new pest in the woods - the blacklegged tick, formerly referred to as "deer tick". This tick has been encountered in the past in some midwest states and northeastern United States but now is being found in Ohio.

Ticks are generally a real nuisance to those spending time outdoors, but the blacklegged tick is known to carry Lyme disease, which can cause serious health problems for humans, including causing death.

This small tick is smaller than a regular American (brown) dog tick we're used to and larger than a winter tick, which is found on deer, cattle and horses. Until this year the blacklegged tick was only found in a few counties in the Buckeye State. Now the eight-legged, blood-sucking pest has been found attached to deer in several eastern and southern counties in Ohio. Those counties include: Harrison, Belmont, Jefferson, Carroll, Columbiana, Muskingum and a few others.

Article Photos

Blacklegged Tick - male (top) and female
Photo courtesy of Dr. Glen Needham

Recently the blacklegged tick was found on several hundred deer checked in during the first week of gun season in Ohio, according to Dr. Glen Needham, OSU Extension Entomologist, who is working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on collecting and testing the ticks.

"We sampled about 500 deer this year and about half had ticks on them. Last year we saw 500-600 deer and only 29 ticks were found on all of the heads. This year there was well over 1,000 ticks found," said Needham of their inspections at deer check stations in several Ohio counties. "We even had a couple of deer that had a hundred or more ticks. We stopped counting at that point.

"I guess you could say it's a good year, or bad year for ticks. Now some of those were winter ticks. Most of those were found in counties south of I70 though," Needham explained.

Needham added that the winter ticks can be a nuisance for deer, and to hunters who are field dressing deer, but he wants to caution people about the blacklegged ticks because of the possible transfer of Lyme disease from the ticks to humans and/or to dogs. Needham also points out: the ticks - and the Lyme disease - has not been found to transfer to deer nor will it harm the venison in any way.

The OSU Extension and ODNR are conducting tests and will release their findings on the deer heads and ticks collected. The deer also will be checked for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which has not been found in deer in Ohio.

Needham said he doesn't want to scare hunters but everyone should be aware of the problems associated with the blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease. "The key thing is, they don't want to get Lyme disease. And think about the transfer of deer and where the ticks may end up, your car, truck or on your clothes. There is a risk of exposure when hunters are transferring deer," said Needham.

To ward off ticks while in the outdoors Needham suggests using a Permethrin repellent, a common

insecticide that is virtually non-toxic to humans and no systemic effects have been reported.

If you find ticks and are not sure about which species it is, there are several websites available to help identify the pests. Those include: ODNR -; Ohio Department of Health - (search tick); Or type in the word "ticks" on are search engine.

For information about Lyme disease or identifying the blacklegged tick, contact your county health department.

Here's some basic information about the ticks:



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  1. Never
  2. Just this year
  3. In eastern Ohio
  4. In southern Ohio
  5. In Pennsylvania
  6. In West Virginia
  7. Other state
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