Tick Management on Recreational Land
Ticks can ruin your day, and if you own recreational land, they can ruin the enjoyment of your property. Whether you’re heading out to a tree stand, mending fences, or simply walking your property on a breezy summer afternoon, the risk of tick-borne illnesses and itchy welts is the last thing you want on your mind.
While it's next to impossible to completely eliminate ticks from your property, you can take steps to reduce their numbers. This article will serve as a basic guide to proper tick management and cover the following topics:
Where do Ticks Live?
Think hot, humid, and dark. Any area on your property that may fall into this category could potentially be a haven for ticks, and knowing where they live is the first step in managing their population. Examples of tick habitats may include:
- Tall grass
- Dog houses
- Wood piles
Rest assured that ticks don't fare well in your home. Because air conditioners pull humidity out of your house, ticks won't survive long enough to reproduce inside an air conditioned house even if you or a pet brings one in.
When Does Tick Season Start?
Ticks avoid cold, dry climates, but these pesky buggers still inhabit most of the United States. There are certainly regions where ticks thrive rather than just survive, such as the northeast, midwest, and southeast.
Even in the winter, you may see the occasional tick. While you won’t have as many infestations, it is important to note they may still be active, and you can still take measures to manage their natural habitats.
Tick season generally begins when the weather starts to get warm, and coincidently, when you’re ready to start spending more time outdoors.
What Diseases Can Ticks Carry
Aside from being bothersome, you may be worried about what types of diseases ticks can transmit to you or your pets. The short answer: too many to count. A comprehensive list can be found on the CDC’s official site. Take the time to learn about the tick species in your region and what diseases they are known to carry.
How Do Ticks Get Diseases?
Because ticks feed on blood, if a tick attaches itself to an animal that already has a disease, it can become infected and then potentially spread the infection to its next host.
The looming question is: “Will a tick bite give me lyme disease?” While this is a valid concern, the CDC maintains that only a select few species of ticks actually transmit lyme disease. Specifically, the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern U.S. and upper midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
Can Ticks Hurt Your Pets?
Just as ticks can transmit diseases to you, they can also transmit diseases to pets and livestock.
Speaking with your veterinarian and keeping your pets and livestock up to date on preventative medication will help to minimize worry regarding tick related illnesses. In turn, this will help reduce tick populations by eliminating your pets and livestock as viable hosts.
How To Prevent Getting a Disease From Ticks
If you find a tick on yourself, your pet, or your livestock, here are a few cautionary measures you can take to lower risk of contracting a disease:
- Remove the tick as quickly as possible.
- Wash the area where the tick was attached.
- Monitor yourself (or your pet) for fever, chills, redness around the bite, and rashes.
How Do You Kill Ticks?
Ticks are surprisingly resilient. Without a host, a tick can live over a year, and tossing them back on the ground will leave them free to find another host. They’re also difficult to drown.
If you do find a tick on you, a pet, or your livestock, a good method to ensure they don’t survive is to pluck them off and flush them down the toilet.
How Can You Manage Ticks on Your Property?
Ultimately, the goal is to manage tick populations year round so that you experience the fewest possible outbreaks when summer comes around.
Keep Your Property Clean
Keep your lawn mowed to eliminate thick grasses where ticks may be nesting and reproducing. Similarly, if your property has spots of underbrush or overgrown fields, consider brush hogging and clearing those areas.
Keeping fallen limbs removed will also help to deter ticks, as well as maintaining any paths that you or your pets and livestock may frequent.
Treat Your Property
There are countless pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and even some natural remedies that you can use on your property to help manage tick populations.
Management isn’t just about killing the ticks, although it may be wise to treat your property directly for ticks. Consider destroying the things that ticks survive on as well (habitat, other hosts, etc.).
Think of it as a give and take. If your barn has rats, those rats may be hosts for ticks, so eliminating the rat population with a pesticide will in turn help to eliminate the tick population.
Similarly, if your recreational land has an overgrowth of weeds, those weeds may be acting as a nesting zone for ticks, so rather than just removing the ticks, you may want to consider removing the weeds with an herbicide.
Unconventional Methods for Tick Management
If you’re in the business of owning critters, another method to tick management could be introducing a flock of fowl to your property.
Chickens, quail, and guineas are among a long list of birds that naturally feed on ticks, so having a flock of your desired fowl type may be beneficial to further controlling tick populations on your land.
Goats can also be utilized to clear underbrush from more heavily forested areas that are difficult to keep clear.
Understanding what wildlife naturally feeds on ticks is another management option. For example, opossums can eat up to 5,000 ticks in one season, so keeping the opossums that naturally inhabit your property can be extremely beneficial.
Ultimately, keeping your property up to par with tick management tactics year round will lead to fewer infestations during tick seasons, and a safer, more enjoyable stroll across your recreational land on a warm summer evening. In short:
- Familiarize yourself with the region that you live in. Visit the CDC to find out what types of ticks may be in your area, and then begin taking preventative measures to minimize tick related illnesses.
- Practice tick management on your property year round to minimize tick populations during hot, summer months.
- Consult with your veterinarian to keep your pets and livestock on preventative medication to protect them and you from ticks and tick-borne diseases.