Ticks have become quite abundant in many parts of Vermont. Thirteen different tick species have been identified in Vermont, but only four are known to carry pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause disease in humans.
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The American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, is a tick species widely distributed throughout the United States. It is associated with the transmission of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and some forms of tularemia. Dog ticks can be distinguished from deer ticks by their size (they are usually larger), by their physical appearance (they have different color schemes), and unlike deer ticks, only adult dog ticks bite humans and spread diseases.
Ticks acquire these organisms by feeding on infected small animals, and then spread disease to other mammals while taking a blood meal. Both adult and young (nymph) deer ticks may bite humans and cause infection. However, most illness is acquired from nymphs because they are smaller, less noticeable and often not removed promptly.
The lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum) lives primarily in the southeast and south-central regions of the United States.This species of tick is not commonly found in Vermont but can be found in southern New England.
The woodchuck tick (Ixodes cookei) can be found east of the Rocky Mountains into New England and southeast Canada. The tick mostly feeds on rodents and medium-sized mammals, especially groundhogs and skunks. It will feed on a variety of animals including humans. This tick can transmit the Powassan virus.
Tick Photo Credit:
Laura C. Harrington, Cornell Extension Service