Story at a glance

  • A new study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Biology found ticks near beaches in Northern California.
  • Disease-ridden ticks are typically found in wooded areas.
  • The study didn’t find the source of infection for the ticks.

A new study found that disease-ridden ticks typically found in wooded areas are also inhabiting near beaches in Northern California.

The study published last Friday in the journal Applied and Environmental Biology found an abundance of ticks in the brush outlying the beaches that people tend to walk through to reach the sand. 


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“We were looking at coastal scrub and looked at redwood forests and oak woodlands and that kind of thing, because everyone tends to look at the same kinds of places. And we found ticks pretty much wherever we looked,” Daniel Salkeld, a Colorado State University research scientist who led the study, told The Washington Post.

The very fact that these infectious ticks are usually believed to be associated with wooded regions emphasizes the unknowns surrounding how widespread they are.

Lyme disease, a well-known illness associated with ticks, is the product of being bitten by an infected blacklegged tick. While hard to diagnose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about 480,000 people are infected with Lyme disease each year. 

Finding ticks in these coastal areas was especially surprising because western grey squirrels, the usual "source of infection" for ticks, don’t typically inhabit these areas. 

The study didn’t determine what animal is causing the infectious ticks in these coastal areas, and Salkeld said ecologists would need to do more research to pinpoint the cause. 

To best avoid being infected by a tick, after walking through wooded or beach trails, people should remove all the clothes they were wearing and throw them into a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any possible ticks. People then need to check their bodies for ticks, which tend to be found on the head, the backs of the ears, underarms, the groin and behind the knees. 

“I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s vacation or outdoor time,” Salkeld said. “... Just be aware and get rid of them as fast as you possibly can.”


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Published on Apr 30, 2021