Ticks are always with us in the outdoors, but they are most active during the wet months between December and June.
Adult ticks are about the size of this letter O, until they have sampled blood and become engorged. In the larval and nymph stages of their life cycle, ticks are even smaller and harder to spot – about the size of a poppy seed.
Ticks don’t fly or drop from trees. They climb to the tips of vegetation just a couple of feet off the ground, usually along animal trails or paths. There they wait for a passing animal or human to brush against them. Then they hitch a ride, crawl around on their unsuspecting host, bite and extract blood, then drop off.
Ticks can carry a variety of diseases. The best known is Lyme disease, which creates flu-like symptoms and can be serious. Fortunately, only a small percentage of ticks are infected, the variety called Ixodes pacificus.
Prevention is really the best defense against ticks. When you visit the outdoors, stay on the official trails. Don’t cut cross-country through grasslands or chaparral. If you do pass through brushy country, check yourself afterwards. For that reason it’s advisable to wear light-colored clothing so you can see the bugs more easily. Tuck your pants into socks or boots, and tuck your shirt into your pants.
Ticks will crawl around for a while after transferring from vegetation to your clothing, so there’s time to find them and brush them off. Be sure to check Fido as well; ticks attach easily to dog fur.
If a tick has attached to your skin, pull it straight out gently but firmly, preferably while wearing latex gloves. Apply antiseptic to the bite and wash your hands. Tick extraction kits, including special tweezers, are available at sporting goods stores.
Tick information is posted on the information panels at park district trailheads. There’s a good tick article in the March-April edition of Regional in Nature, which you can read online at the park district website, www.ebparks.org.
You can also obtain more detailed information at the California Department of Public Health web site, www.cdph.ca.gov. On the right side of the home page, click on “A-Z Index.” Then click on L for Lyme disease or T for ticks. Also check out www.bayarealyme.org, website of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
New parks projects
This Regional in Nature edition has an article about projects completed or well underway that will increase public access to several of the regional parks.
You can read about the new facilities now open at Encinal Beach behind Encinal High School in Alameda. Attractions include restored sand dunes, new trails and improved disabled access. The site is adjacent to the city of Alameda’s public Encinal Boat Launch.
Other projects are well underway. Dumbarton Quarry shoreline campground in Fremont, with camping spaces for bicyclists, hikers, cars, motorcycles and recreational vehicles, is expected to open at mid-year.
McCosker Creek at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland hills is undergoing the largest creek restoration project in the park district’s history, scheduled for completion in 2023.
A half-mile extension of the San Francisco Bay Trail at Lone Tree Point in Richmond will open later this year.
Also scheduled to open this year is the Berkeley Brickyard at McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, which the district operates for the state. Improvements will include walking paths, a staging area, drinking fountains, a restroom, and a restored marshland habitat.
And the Tidewater Day Use Area at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in Oakland is being expanded with parking, restrooms, picnic sites and water fountains.
So there’s plenty to anticipate in the regional parks as winter ends.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.