State wants people to submit ticks for research
The Submit-a-Tick Program may have a catchy name but its purpose is serious.
According to State Veterinarian Bob Gerlach, the program is a collaborative effort between the Department of Environmental Conservation, State Fish and Game and the University of Alaska to find out which non-native ticks are taking root in Alaska, where that is happening and, just as importantly, which might be carrying disease.
There are six tick species that have historically been found in the state, according to the state veterinarian's website. Those ticks generally feed on small wild animals such as squirrels, rabbits and birds. The site states it is not uncommon to find ticks feeding on moose, dogs or cats. In rare cases, they may be found on humans.
Gerlach said the state began monitoring ticks in 2011. That year there were just a few, but by 2012 Gerlach said the numbers had increased.
"And that's when we started to find not just our routine resident ticks but ticks from Outside," Gerlach said. "And so far I think we've identified seven or eight different new ticks that have not normally [been] found in the state of Alaska."
Some of those ticks seem to have taken up residence here, including the American Dog tick and the Brown Dog tick, both of which Gerlach said have been found on animals that have never left the state.
For researchers to gather information about which ticks are in Alaska — and which might carry pathogens that could affect people, pets and livestock — the state is asking people who find ticks on themselves or their pets to remove and submit them. Information on how to submit them to Gerlach's office or any office of Fish and Game can be found on the state's website.
Gerlach said ticks that are submitted will be sent to the University of Georgia where experts will identify the species. After that, the specimens will be shipped to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to be screened for disease. Gerlach said ticks collected last summer are in the process of being screened for pathogens now, but there are no results to report yet.
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