Blood-sucking parasites seem to be everywhere in North America, and though you may think moving far north would ease the issue, you’d have to think again. Your blood is for you, not for pests like ticks, but unfortunately, you can’t avoid them simply by moving to a more frigid locale; not even the reaches of Alaska are safe.
With that said, you can learn more about Alaska tick species below, as well as discover ways through which you can effectively repel them.
Does Alaska Have Ticks?
Ticks are part of the order of animals known as Ixodida, which itself is largely composed of ectoparasitic arachnids. These often target mammals – most notably humans — as hosts, living outside of their bodies to feed on their blood.
Even Alaska is home to several notable tick species, and while it’s fortunate that not all of them are dangerous to humans, there are a few diseases to watch out for when it comes to Alaskan ticks.
In particular, they are known for spreading the following diseases:
Any of these diseases can put your health at serious risk, as the symptoms they bring about can become permanent or even fatal.
How Common Are Ticks in Alaska?
Though tick populations vary throughout different parts of the state, you can expect almost any stretch of wilderness to be home to some. They thrive in forests, woodlands, and generally rural areas, which make up most of Alaska’s land beyond its cities.
In addition, during Alaskan summers, you should remain extra vigilant. The warmer the weather, the more ticks can thrive and infect hosts with zootic diseases, especially on farms, where livestock can carry a plethora of ticks.
In the state’s larger cities, like Anchorage, there aren’t as many ticks around to take up residence, but travelers from outside the state must be cautious, as they can easily transfer ticks into Alaskan territory. In fact, the majority of the known cases of tickborne illnesses in Alaska have been traced back to non-native ticks.
Types of Ticks in Alaska
Knowing about the different species of ticks in Alaska can go a long way in helping prevent contracting tickborne illnesses. With that said, the following species are highly notable given their ability to transmit dangerous or fatal diseases to humans and other mammals:
Western Blacklegged Ticks
Western blacklegged ticks are close relatives of the more dangerous blacklegged or deer tick common in the eastern US. They are most commonly encountered in southern coastal areas of Alaska. They primarily feed off of white-tailed deer, but they can easily transfer to humans, and they can carry diseases with them.
From April through August, western blacklegged ticks are in their larvae and nymph life stages, which makes them smaller and harder to spot, but they primarily target rodents, reptiles, and birds during these phases. From September through May, though, western blacklegged ticks are in their adult stage, and prefer large mammals (deer, elk, moose) and even humans.
Brown Dog Ticks
As the name suggests, brown dog ticks feed on domesticated dogs and are reddish-brown in appearance. They often settle in towns and cities where there’s more access to domesticated pets. Brown dog ticks can spell bad news for your canine’s health, but they are less known for infecting humans with diseases.
Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks
Rocky Mountain wood ticks are not shy about latching onto human hosts, primarily in the late spring months. They also feed on domesticated dogs and cats. They are often found in sparsely wooded areas, grassy trails, fields, and shrublands.
A species of tick native to Alaska, Ixodes angustus is sometimes called the mouse tick. Looking somewhat like a western blacklegged tick, it prefers small mammals for its hosts, like mice and voles and occasionally infests dogs. They don’t pose the biggest threats to human health, but because they can bite people and pets, it’s good to know about them as a resident or visitor to Alaska.
Winter ticks are also native to Alaska and often affect moose populations. Two telltale signs of a winter tick infestation in a herd of moose are extreme itchiness and hair loss. These infestations are usually very large and cause significant blood loss in moose.
Rabbit ticks prefer three different hosts in each of their life stages. Younger rabbit ticks prefer small mammals and birds, while adults gravitate toward rabbits. Rabbit ticks are extremely small (1⁄8 of an inch in length or less) and have a reddish-tan hue. These ticks don’t often transmit diseases to humans, but they can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever among rabbit populations.
Castor Bean Ticks
Castor bean ticks have hard, silver bodies and — like rabbit ticks — target different hosts during each stage of their lives, from reptiles to mammals and medium-sized birds. Castor bean ticks are vectors for some seriously nasty diseases, most notably transmitting Lyme disease to humans.
When Is Tick Season in Alaska?
Though you should be on the lookout year-round when it comes to ticks in Alaska, tick season generally peaks in the spring and early summer each year, when many nymphs grow into adults, increasing their ability to travel and feed on their preferred hosts.
How to Protect Yourself From Ticks in Alaska
There are a few ways to avoid being on the menu for ticks in Alaska. They’ll often latch onto your pants to crawl up your legs, so it is recommended that you tuck your pant legs into your socks to avoid them. Even better if you tuck insect repellent pants into insect repellent socks.
Wear EPA-registered insect-repellent clothing that has been treated with permethrin, a chemical that helps repel ticks. You can also wear gaiters to help keep ticks from crawling up the inside of your pant leg.
Avoid traversing through tall grasses and trails that are “off the beaten path,” as these areas are often home to thousands of ticks, and always check your entire body and all of your clothing for ticks after being outdoors for an extended time in Alaska. Look for small, round, dark spots on your skin and clothing.
Insect Shield: The Best Tick-Repellent Clothing for Alaskans
At Insect Shield, we offer EPA-approved tick repellent clothing for those who need it. In Alaska, you probably spend a lot of time outdoors, and you need to protect yourself from these pesky parasites, so shop our clothing and accessories today!