Acorn Shortage Yields Deer Tick Surplus
2012 may be the worst year for Lyme disease yet. Protect yourselves and your pets!
You may be having the same reaction I did when I first heard that a shortage of acorns last fall will cause this to be a very bad year (from a canine and human perspective) for ticks. “Huh?”
After doing a little follow up, though, it makes perfect sense to me. It goes like this:
In the summer and fall of 2010, trees in the Northeast (U.S.) yielded an average of roughly 250 pounds of acorns each when the typical average is only 25 to 30 pounds.
This drew populations both of white-footed mice and deer, both well-known vectors for black-legged (deer) ticks which can carry Lyme disease. This brought about a population boom for mice in 2011.
While the fall of 2010 set a recorded high for acorn production, last fall saw a recorded low, with a typical tree shedding less than half a pound of acorns according to Mark Ashton, a forest ecologist at Yale University (as reported by the New York Times.)
A shortage of acorns means a culling of the field mouse population, leaving an army of hungry black-legged ticks (some infected with Lyme disease) looking for new hosts.
“We expect 2012 to be the worst year for Lyme disease risk ever,” said Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
What that means for us dog lovers—this year, it’s more important than ever to take precautionary measures to protect ourselves and our pets from the risk of being infected with Lyme disease.
- Seek your veterinarian’s advice on the best topical flea and tick preventative product for your pet. I always use Frontline on my dogs, but there are many options on the market.
- When walking in wooded areas, keep dogs near you on the paths and out of the brush. Ticks like to wait on low grass and the undersides of low-lying leaves to hop onto passers-by.
- If your dog, like my Tatsu, simply must wander in the woods to be happy, expect there to be ticks hitching a ride back to you. Although Frontline prevents ticks from attaching to Tatsu, I often find them climbing around in his fur, just waiting to climb over to his humans after one of his woodland adventures.
- When spending time in areas where ticks may be, experts recommend tucking your pants into your socks while out, removing your clothes in an empty bath tub when you get in and washing clothes immediately. I have to admit, as freaked out as I get about Lyme disease, I’ve never followed this advice.
- Even if you avoid the woods entirely, check yourself and your dog for ticks daily. Our veterinarian has often said that it’s possible to pick up ticks right in your own back yard.
- Know the symptoms of Lyme disease: a “bulls-eye” rash, painful joints and/or flu-like symptoms can all be signs of the disease in humans, but not everyone gets all of these symptoms. Lameness is usually the only symptom you’ll notice from Lyme disease in pets.
- Know what a black-legged tick/aka deer tick looks like.
- See my Weekly Yips titled “Lyme Disease – A Real Threat” and “Protect Your Pup From Ticks All Year Long” for more information and links to Lyme disease related resources.
With all the gloriously warm weather we’ve been enjoying, many of us are spending as much time outdoors as we can get away with. That’s all the more reason to be well-informed about ways to avoid Lyme disease as well as how to spot it when it does come around. Enjoy the great outdoors, but do it safely!