Watch CBS News

Doctors Warn About Booming Tick Population

BOSTON (CBS) - They're here. The mild winter temperatures we're enjoying mean the danger from ticks and Lyme disease has arrived early. Normally at this time of year cold weather causes ticks to go dormant, but not this winter.

We went to a park in Needham Tuesday with entomologist Dr. Richard Pollack to see how easy it is to find the ticks. He dragged a small piece of fabric along the vegetation and after a couple of passes, there were deer ticks on the cloth.

WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias reports

"This unseasonable weather has extended the season for these ticks," says Dr. Pollack. It's a misconception that the first frost kills the ticks. "Normally the deer ticks are quiet. They're hibernating at this time of year, but if it's warm enough to be outside, it's warm enough for the ticks to be active," says Pollack. And that means a risk of Lyme disease at a time when you usually don't have to worry about it. "The take home message really is if you're out there enjoying the weather, take precautions. You may bring them home, your pets may bring them home," says Pollack.

We met Norma Calder enjoying the lovely weather, walking her dog. She's been on the lookout for ticks on her pet. "This winter I've probably found 10 or 12," she says.

At Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, they're aware of the potential problems. "Whenever we do have warmer temperatures there is an uptick in the number of ticks we'll see on dogs," says Angell veterinarian Dr. Kiko Bracker.

A lot of dog owners take the winter off from applying tick preventative medications, but Dr. Bracker says that's a bad idea this time. "This year it's really best to use the tick repellants and tick preventatives twelve months a year, just to be safe," he says.

The good news, this unusual tick activity now doesn't mean there will be more of them in the Spring. In fact, if it stays dry some of them could die off because ticks don't do well in dry weather. In either case, come Spring, we can also start worrying about mosquitoes.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.