Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks
What You Need to Know


Okay, picture this... I am sitting at my computer and feel something "nipping" near the nape of my neck. It almost feels like an itch. I run my fingers through my hair and remove MY FIRST TICK!! EVER!! I took this to mean that I need to write a page on the site! So here goes.

Before I flushed mine down the toilet, (the preferred method of disposal as crushing is often unsuccessful and can be dangerous if the tick is infected with Lyme disease), I noticed that it was kind of triangular-shaped and flat. It seemed to be brown in colour and had a white patch near the head. It was almost a 1/4 of an inch (large - I thought) and seemed to pick up each leg very slowly and deliberately, very much like a spider does when it walks.

Now, whenever I have a question about anything here in the Rockies, I turn to Ben Gadd's Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. This is by no means a little handbook you can just glance at from time to time. This is thee book when it comes to answering any question you may have. So let's see what Ben has to say.

First of all, they are known here as Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks. They are visible in the spring months of April, May and June but can be found any time of year. Mine must have been female due to its brown colouring and the white patch. The males are grey and do not have a white patch.

Surprisingly, they do not fall from trees but rather hang out in grasses and suspend themselves on a couple legs as the other legs wait in the hopes of grasping onto someone passing by. The hairier the passer-by, the better.

They DO NOT latch themselves to your body right away. These delightful little animals spend the next few hours wandering around your body and often end up biting into the tender part of your head, near your neck - where there is lots of hair.

I am lucky that I happened to notice "the attempted bite" and was able to remove it easily. If it does manage to gets its mouthparts into you, it will inject an anti coagulant which is actually toxic to the human nervous system. (There is usually a red patch around the tickbite and you will probably know by then that you have a tick.) After a few days of feeding, when it has had its fill, it will drop off. Lyme disease is not common here, but if you think you have been bitten by a tick, I would go to the doctor.

Now comes the removal. Ben Gadd recommends pulling "gently and steadily" and if the mounthparts remain in you, you can remove them with a sterilized needle or knifeblade. Make sure to clean and sterilize the area afterwards. If you feel unsure of yourself, you can always seek medical help.

Ticks can carry Lyme disease so you should take the necessary precautions:
  • Stay on trails when possible.

  • Wear light-coloured clothing making the dark ticks noticeable.

  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks.

  • Tuck your shirt into your pants.

  • Pay attention to creepy feelings and little bites you think you feel. (This is what saved me!!)

  • Make sure to really look at your body after being outdoors. If you can't do it good enough, ask a friend or family member to inspect. Really have them look in your hair around the nape of your neck.

  • Be aware that natural environments come with natural hazards.

If you would like more information on this or any other topic dealing with the Canadian Rockies, I would recommend Handbook of the Canadian Rockies by Ben Gadd.

This information is only for your convenience and is not meant to replace medical advice. If you have any concerns, please seek a medical professional.

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