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Ticks In Alaska

Dog Tick
Dog Tick

If you ask any Alaskan about dog ticks the usual response is, "Not up here!" Well, that has changed.

Alaska has always had ticks. One species, generally found on squirrels and hares, is common in Alaska and native to the state, but those aren't the problem. It’s the introduction of non-native, potentially disease carrying ticks that’s a concern. According to Dr. Kimberlee Beckman, a veterinarian with The Alaska Department of Fish and Game new species of ticks have recently showed up in the 49th state.

Beckmen was recently sent ticks from Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage and other Alaska communities for identification. Beckmen consulted with an expert in Georgia who helped identify the different ticks, which included the American dog tick, the brown dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. Most were found on dogs, and all the dog ticks were non-native. It was the first time they’d been identified in the state.

“We don’t have dog, deer or moose ticks in Alaska, and we don’t want them here,” she said. Ticks carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis, Lyme disease, Q-fever, tularemia and other diseases - and many of the diseases affect dogs, wildlife and people.One tick came from a dog in Sitka, a dog that had just come up from Oregon. That tick was a species that carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Beckmen said. One tick came from a dog that had never left Juneau. Two more ticks came from dogs that had never left Sitka.

So, what do you do if you find a tick on you pet? “Our current climate can support the life cycle of many of these ticks, once they arrive,” Beckmen said. “The only thing to prevent this is to keep them from arriving. People should look for ticks and treat their dogs with a tick repellant if they are coming up. I use a product on my dog that helps repel mosquitoes, but it also repels ticks and fleas. There are several different products available from veterinarians. If people have friends coming up to visit, make sure they alert their friends they should use a tick treatment on their dog before they drive up." Embedded ticks can also be plucked with a tweezers. Bear in mind, however, that fluids squeezed from an infected tick may be contagious. You should wear a disposable glove or use a tissue to avoid getting any fluid in a cut or on your skin. And wash your hands afterward. The Department of Fish and Game encourages Alaskans to submit specimens if they find ticks. Contact or bring ticks to your local ADFG biologist. Ticks can be brought in live, frozen or preserved in alcohol, in a tightly sealed container please.