Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. Photo courtesy of Anthony South.
By Ashley South
In Montana, the ground is thawing and everything is waking up, including ticks. The most common tick in Montana is the Rocky Mountain Wood tick. Tall grass, shrubs, and light woody debris that is knee high, is where ticks like to be. Ticks climb up vegetation to the tip and spread their front legs to catch the fur of mammals passing through.
Adult ticks are found from March through November, and they start to diminish during the hot and dry mid-summer months. Mature ticks can survive for up to six hundred days without food or nutrients. They prefer to feed on medium to large mammals, the males only feed for a short period of time, and females feed for fourteen to seventeen days before dropping off their host and laying up to six thousand eggs.
To prevent or reduce the chance of a tick encounter, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants and tuck your shirt in. Light colored clothing can help spot ticks on your clothing. Tea tree oil mixed with water will repel ticks and other biting insects, this is safe to use on your clothing and pets in diluted amounts.
When removing ticks, you want to find them as early as you can. Tweezers are the best way to remove ticks. Place tweezers right over the tick as close to the skin as possible, and use a steady pull to remove the tick. Try not to jerk or twist the tick, avoid crushing the tick.
Ticks have a hypostome, which is barbed and used to bury their head into skin, so when removing them make sure not to leave any parts of the tick in the skin that could cause infection. Do not burn, smother, or smash a tick to remove it.
Make sure to disinfect the tick bite area on your skin, and properly dispose of the tick. Remember to check your pet’s paws and fur, and check yourself after every outing.