What kinds of ticks are found in British Columbia?
First, let’s get all the myths out of the way. Ticks do not fly, leap or fall from trees! They don’t even have eyes and must wait for a host to pass by. Just imagine waiting for food to cross your path before you can eat.
Ticks have three life stages as they grow: the larval stage, nymph stage, and adult stage. It’s important to know that most ticks will feed in all stages. Therefore, you could contract a disease from any tick you come across. Please obtain medical advice if you have been bitten to see what they recommend! If possible, it is beneficial to capture the tick that has bitten you because it may aid in the treatment.
Here are 3 types of ticks that live in British Columbia:
#1. Rabbit Tick
- Haemaphysalis leporispalustris
- Adults are tan to reddish-tan. Females are darker on the body and larger than males.
- Also known as the Grouse Tick.
The Rabbit Tick is found in forested habitats, including coniferous, deciduous, and mixed forests in British Columbia. This tick is found from spring through summer. However, in the fall, their numbers significantly decline.
Rabbit Tick Range Map
The Rabbit Tick is considered a three-host tick, which means it feeds on a different host animal at each stage of its life. Because of the name, it should not be surprising that adults prefer to feed on rabbits. They are typically found on the back of or between the ears or on their neck. Immature Rabbit Ticks feed on ground-dwelling birds and other small mammals.
Rabbit Ticks can be infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a severe tick-borne illness with a mortality rate of over 20% if not treated early. They can also transmit Tularemia which typically infects the rabbit and rodent populations.
But here’s the good news:
Rabbit Ticks usually don’t feed on humans, and the disease transmission to humans is rare. Thank goodness!
#2. Winter Tick
- Dermacentor albipictus
- Adult females are reddish-brown with a creamy white shield on their backs behind their heads.
- Adult males are dark brown with a crosshatch pattern on their backs.
- Also known as the Moose Tick.
The Winter Tick is found in various habitats but has an abundance of populations where large hoofed animals are present in British Columbia. This tick is a one-host tick, which means it feeds on the same individual during all three life stages. Therefore, it’s most frequently found in fall and winter.
Winter Tick Range Map
Ticks do not have eyes, so they can’t be picky about what meal presents itself. So, sometimes dogs, beavers, black bears, and coyotes are incidental hosts for Winter Ticks. Luckily, they rarely bite and don’t feed on humans.
This tick is not found to carry diseases, but heavy infestations can cause complications for their hosts. Large numbers of ticks result in severe anemia, skin irritation, hair loss, a distraction from feeding, and even death.
Interestingly, deer and other mammals can easily remove ticks when grooming, but moose cannot. In recent years, moose have been found completely covered with Winter Ticks. Surprisingly, one single moose can be covered in over 100,000 Winter Ticks, leading to the moose’s death. Check out this video below to learn more!
#3. Brown Dog Tick
- Rhipicephalus sanguineus
- Both sexes are reddish-brown and have an elongated body shape.
- Males only take small blood meals while females can take large meals, which makes them increase dramatically in size.
- Also known as the Kennel Tick.
The Brown Dog Tick can be found year-round in British Columbia. They are mainly located where there are domestic dogs since that is their favorite host. So that means pretty much everywhere! 🙂
Brown Dog Tick Range Map
Unlike other ticks in British Columbia, the Brown Dog Tick’s lifecycle can be completed indoors. Therefore, this tick species is often found in homes.
The Brown Dog Tick is considered the most widespread tick species in British Columbia!
But luckily, it doesn’t typically bite humans. However, when they do, they have been known to transmit the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a severe tick-borne illness with a mortality rate of over 20% if not treated early. Symptoms include high fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, and sometimes a rash. For transmission to occur, however, the tick must be attached for at least six hours.
Brown Dog Ticks can also transmit diseases to dogs, such as Canine Ehrlichiosis or Canine Babesiosis. So if you see odd symptoms after finding a tick on your dog, make sure to get it to a veterinarian.
Do you need additional help identifying ticks?
Try this field guide!
Which of these ticks have you seen in British Columbia?
Leave a comment below!
Many of the tick pictures above are from Ticksafety.com. It’s an excellent resource for learning more about ticks and how to stay safe!