Though ticks can be important sources of food for birds, reptiles and amphibians, their blood-sucking, parasitic ways haven’t earned them many fans, especially here on Shelter Island.
We have at least three species — the black legged, dog and Lone Star — that carry illnesses such as Lyme disease, babesiosis and alpha-gal syndrome. Ticks love to hang around in wooded, grassy and shrubby areas. But the adventurous Lone Star tick has been known to nonchalantly stroll across Shelter Island’s paved patios and other human-made surfaces.
To avoid ticks, keep out of high-risk areas, use bug repellents, and be vigilant in checking your body for these dangerous creatures. If you hike, garden or go birding a fair amount, invest in permethrin-infused clothing and footwear, or use a spray-on version. For further advice, check with health professionals, especially if you find a tick attached to your skin.
Although any warm-blooded animal can provide a blood meal for hungry ticks, white-tailed deer are a major host. Large and mobile, they can carry hundreds of ticks each and move easily between woods, fields and yards. Reduction of the deer herd on Shelter Island is a community-wide effort and will help address our tick problem.
At Mashomack, we are continually working to balance best management practices in caring for our lands and waters while allowing safe public access, including reducing the risk of tick exposure. Toward that end, we have widened trails in several areas and will continue mowing to keep grass on the hiking trails low.
Clearer trail signage is now posted, decreasing the chance that hikers will wander into unmaintained, tick-filled areas. That’s not all The Nature Conservancy is doing to address our tick problem. Both here in New York and around the world, we are working to tackle climate change. This global problem is increasing ticks’ geographical range and extending the time during the year when ticks are active.
With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to enjoy the natural world of which we are all a part, while protecting ourselves from ticks. Whether you make sure to apply bug spray or work hard to implement the clean-energy future, when it comes to preventing tick bites, the time you invest will be very well spent.
Mashomack Preserve is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature thrive. Our mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. To learn more, visit nature.org.