Mild winter brings about early tick sightings in Canada

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Mild winter brings about early tick sightings in Canada
WATCH: Experts warn hikers and pet owners to keep an eye out for the bloodsuckers. Mark Carcasole reports. – Mar 8, 2024

Across social media, several people in Canada and the U.S. have been reporting early sightings of ticks.

They’re not commonly spotted until late March or early April, but with the mild winter, Bernie Grafe of Orkin Canada says conditions are ripe for them to creep out ahead of schedule.

“All that low-lying grass that’s been pressed down by the snow is starting to perk up,” he told Global News Friday. “And that’s what ticks need to latch onto as they wait to … get their victims. Either dogs, other animals and us.”

While X users are anecdotally reporting early sightings, Dr. Heather Coatsworth at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory says it’s “probably too soon to tell right now” whether there are actually more of the little bloodsuckers around than would be typical this year.

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“Generally speaking, with warmer climates, we are likely to see ticks emerge earlier in the year, but we haven’t seen strong evidence of that yet.”

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They can show up in the tall grass, in the woods, or even in your backyard if it’s not properly maintained.

“Tick-borne illnesses in Canada … that you should be aware of are, obviously, Lyme disease,” reminds Dr. Coatsworth.

“As well as anaplasmosis and babesiosis, and lesser of risk is … Powassen virus.”

Health experts advise walkers, hikers and pet owners to check themselves and their pets for ticks after a walk in the woods. If you find one buried under your skin, you should be very careful about how you remove it.

“Take a pair of tweezers and go as close as possible to the skin, or fur of an animal, and gently remove the tick,” says Dr. Coatsworth. “Wash that area thoroughly and then obviously monitor symptoms.”

Some veterinarians also advise dog owners to start their tick medication earlier than normal, if they aren’t already doing it all year-round.

“I have seen them with my own dogs out walking in Scarborough near Morningside Park. And yes, I do keep my dogs on year-round tick prevention because of it,” said dog walker Jennifer Burns.

While officials say the numbers don’t show it yet, Grafe feels ticks and other pests will show up in force this spring and summer.

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“I give it about another week and we’re going to see a significant uprise. Same as other pests like, just general crawling insects. Carpet beetles, beetles, centipedes, spiders. They’re all coming out of hibernation right about now.”

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