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Sask. saw 'off the charts' reports of tick able to carry Lyme disease


A record number of black-legged ticks, the species capable of carrying Lyme disease, are being reported in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatoon area saw 58 reports of the black-legged ticks, and the Yorkton area received 28 public sightings.

"This year was off the charts," Emily Jenkins, professor of veterinary microbiology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, told CTV News.

Jenkins said her team usually receives about 10 public sightings of black-legged ticks a year in Saskatchewan.

"We saw more black-legged tick activity than we've ever seen. And if we were ever going to give them a winter that they could survive, and make it to reproduce the next year, this would be the winter," Jenkins said, referencing the above-seasonal temperatures.

The data was collected on eTick, a platform where people can send pictures of ticks and even mail in ticks for further analysis.

Along with public reporting, the researchers also go out in the environment to monitor tick populations.

Normally, the majority of ticks the scientists find are American dog ticks — but this year, was different.

"We found, for the first time by active surveillance or by dragging in the environment, we found several sites where the black-legged tick was present," Jenkins said.

"That is the first time in decades, of searching, that we have ever found this tick in the province of Saskatchewan."

The scientists found the black-legged ticks in Prince Albert and Pike Lake Provincial Park.

It doesn't mean these ticks have Lyme disease, but they are capable of carrying it.

Maria Jarque, who analyzes the public tick reports on eTick, was surprised to see more tick sightings in the winter months.

"This year have been more submissions," said Jarque, a parasitology specialist who works in Jenkins' lab.

"Usually it's quiet, but this year has been so warm."

Jarque said the ticks are likely arriving in Saskatchewan from Manitoba, hitching rides on birds, and lingering in the warm temperatures.

With the warm winter, the ticks eggs have a better chance of surviving, but the researchers won't be sure until the spring.

"We are really excited to see what's happening next spring," said Jarque — who is likely one of the few people looking forward to tick season. Top Stories

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