Ticks becoming more common in central Labrador as the region gets warmer

A biology professor at Mount Allison University says warmer winters mean ticks can survive longer and travel farther north

In the summer of 2023, Dr. Rebecca Jackson noticed something she'd never seen before in her time at the Valley Vet Clinic, the only one in central Labrador: pets who hadn't travelled outside Labrador came in with ticks.

Jackson told CBC News she's concerned the appearances — a deer tick and an American dog tick, both of which are known to carry infections like Lyme disease — signal an emerging trend.

SEE ALSO: 'Pretty much everywhere': Couple pulled over a dozen ticks off their dog

"If we're seeing two, we're wondering how many we're missing as well," she said.

There have always been some ticks around Labrador, including rabbit ticks, Jackson said. The appearance of ticks that carry diseases had always been related to recent travel — but that's now changing, she said.

Jackson is advising people to check their pets for ticks and to get tick treatment for them if they spend a lot of time in the woods or in long grass, she said.

The habitat and habits of ticks are some of the things Prof. Vett Lloyd has been tracking for years from Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B.

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Jackson advises people to check their pets over for ticks and consider prevention based on their pet's habits. (CBC)

Ticks were picked up in the United States by migrating birds, then dropped off in the spring to the Maritimes and died in the winter, Lloyd said.

But with climate change, ticks are living through the warmer winters, making them a year-round problem in the Maritimes, Lloyd said. Now birds can pick them up there and take them farther north, she said.

"Now they're not dying off," said Lloyd. "And the problem is that one female tick, once she's had a good meal of blood, can lay about 2,000 to 3,000 eggs. So one tick leads to a lot of ticks pretty quickly."

They've been showing up in increasing numbers in Newfoundland over the past five years, she said, but Labrador was one of the rare places that didn't have any non-travel related ticks — until now.

vett-lloyd/Submitted by Vett Lloyd via CBC

Vett Lloyd, a biology professor at Mount Allison University, says warmer winters mean ticks can survive longer and travel farther north. (Submitted by Vett Lloyd)

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"We're starting to see the odd tick being recovered in northern Quebec, and you've got coastline there, so it's kind of only a matter of time," Lloyd said.

Look for 'moles' with legs, remove with tweezers

And they're not a problem just for pets, but for people too. But since ticks inject a small numbing agent when they bite someone, they can be difficult to feel, Lloyd said. So someone who has been out in the woods or long grass should look themselves over for something that looks like a mole with legs, she said.

"There's a lot of mythology about the best way to remove ticks. The key point is to remove it. Tweezers work really well — you just pull it out," she said. "It looks disgusting, it sounds disgusting, but the good news is it doesn't hurt."

There are also a number of tick medications or treatments that can be given by a veterinarian, Lloyd said.

"We live in a very beautiful country and summer is always too short. So don't stay inside quivering in fear," Lloyd said. "Go outside anyway and put on some bug spray that'll help to some extent. Be careful and enjoy the world."

WATCH: Vaccine for tick-borne Lyme disease could soon be available

Thumbnail courtesy of Getty Images/Tomasz Klejdysz/1602304607-170667a.

The story was originally written by Heidi Atter and published for CBC News.