[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        May 22, 2009

Tick season at Fort McCoy 
moving into full swing

By David Beckmann, The Real McCoy Contributor

The warming temperatures have us all excited to finally remove the coats, gloves and boots of winter and reach for much more comfortable short-sleeve T-shirts and shorts.

We diligently have awaited the arrival of spring, and now once again watch as Mother Nature brings on the plants and animals that are synonymous with it. But as much as we enjoy watching spring transform the landscape, not all that comes out of hiding brings on a joyous spirit; it is once again time to be on high alert for ticks.

As spring progresses, Fort McCoy begins to see increased training activity, campground recreationists, anglers and spring turkey hunters.

At this time of the year, any outside activity can increase the risk of humans and pets picking up ticks and the potential harmful diseases they may carry.

Fort McCoy is known to have two species of ticks, the American Dog tick (commonly known as a wood tick) and the Black Legged tick (commonly known as the deer or bear tick).

Deer ticks are much smaller in size than wood ticks. Female deer ticks are typically up to one-eighth inch in length and one-sixteenth inch wide. Female deer ticks have a black head and mouth part (known as the shield area) and a dark red body (note head and body are all in one part).

Photo: A view of a female deer tick (not to actual size) on a human thumb. Deer ticks can be infected with a number of diseases, including Lyme disease. (Contributed Photo)
A view of a female deer tick (not to actual size) on a human thumb. Deer ticks can be infected with a number of diseases, including Lyme disease. (Contributed Photo) (An Extra to The Real McCoy Online)

Male deer ticks are all black and smaller in size than females, usually about the size of the female black shield area and up to one-sixteenth inch in length.

Deer ticks in the nymph stage are even smaller and very difficult to see. Deer ticks can be found in large numbers on Fort McCoy.

Wood ticks are noticeably larger in size than deer ticks. Wood ticks average three-sixteenths inch in length and one-eighth inch in width.

Female wood ticks have silvery grey chalk-like markings on their shield. Male wood ticks have silvery markings down the entire back.

Deer and wood ticks typically hang on the lower outer branches or stems of shrubs and plants waiting to hitch a ride on their host.

Tall grass fields, thick brush areas and game trails tend to be magnets for ticks, but they can be picked up almost anywhere.

It should be known that not all ticks carry harmful diseases. They themselves must first become infected before they become a carrier of disease. Both species found on Fort McCoy have the potential to transmit harmful diseases to humans and pets. Typically, an infected tick must be attached for 24-48 hours for transmission to take place. The most common disease spread by ticks is Lyme disease, which is only spread by the deer tick.

Over the past few years other tick-borne diseases have been on the rise and becoming more commonly found through sampling and testing. The deer tick is notorious for carrying multiple disease types and for transmission of these to their host.

Aside from Lyme disease, other tick-borne diseases of concern in the Fort McCoy area are Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis. All can be extremely harmful to humans and pets if not treated.

Symptoms in individual cases may vary, but usually are similar to those associated with the flu, such as fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and fever.

Skin rashes, such as the "bull’s-eye" rash that is mostly associated in Lyme disease cases, may occur.

However skin rashes may not develop for all people and if they do, not all rashes will be a distinctive "bull’s-eye" shape.

Rashes may be odd shaped, single or in multiple numbers and sizes on any part of the body.

As a general rule, if you notice you have been bit by a tick, are developing an unusual rash or have been feeling symptoms that may be associated with tick-borne diseases it is a good idea to go to your local medical health center and get tested.

Be proactive! Waiting to seek treatment will only allow the disease to advance, prolonging the healing process.

The outdoors is a wonderful place to be during the spring and summer months and by no means should anyone avoid spending time outdoors. Just make sure to take the proper precautions when outside by following these helpful tips to minimize your chances of being bitten by ticks.

Prevention tips:
     • Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants.
     • Apply insect repellent containing DEET as directed to skin and or permethrin repellent products to clothes (only clothes) as directed.
     • Try to avoid areas with dense brush and grass.
     • Examine clothes and skin frequently for ticks.
     • Examine your body after outdoor activities, especially in areas with hair and that hold heat.
     • For pets, use a tick repellant and check them closely after being outdoors.

The Fort McCoy Wildlife program has brochures published by the Lyme Disease Foundation with quality photos and descriptions of deer and wood ticks at all stages of life and detailed information on all tick-borne diseases. 

These brochures are available at the Fort McCoy Permit Sales Office, building 2168 (608-388-3337), Installation Safety Office, building 1678 (608-388-3403), and the Troop Medical Clinic, building 2669 (608-388-3025).

In addition to these brochures, make sure to check out the following Web site developed by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/ento/TickEd.htm).

Remember, with the proper precautions you can still freely enjoy the wonders that spring and summer have to offer. Just make sure to take that extra time to follow the tips to keep tick free.

(Beckmann is the Fort McCoy Wildlife Biologist.)


[ Top of Page ]

[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]