Robust ticks now a year-round problem in New England, even in the winter

Thinking about enjoying the great outdoors this winter? Remember to bring the tick repellent.

Ticks, once considered a spring and summer nuisance, are now a year-round problem in New England.

“Tick season is pretty much every season,” says Dr. Thomas Mather, a tick expert at the University of Rhode Island. “They live through the winter. That's when their activity is at a peak.”

Ticks are robust and thriving in New England, according to Mather, in large part due to the increasing population of the white-tailed deer, a favorite meal for the deer tick.

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“We think of deer as the reproductive host for these blacklegged ticks," Mather told Boston 25 News reporter John Monahan.

The ticks stay on the deer for 5 to 7 days. After filling up on blood, they drop off and stay under leaves and snow, where they hibernate until spring.

"They make 2 to 3,000 eggs that they lay around Memorial Day," Mather added.

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If there is little to no snow cover and temperatures rise above freezing, it is possible to find an active adult tick searching for a host on a warm winter day, according to experts.

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The adult blacklegged deer tick poses the greatest threat for humans and pets. Not only are they widespread in the northeast, but nearly 50 percent of them carry Lyme Disease


Jim Tappero is helping reduce that threat. He is a hunter and is often invited into people’s backyards to hunt deer.

"I have homeowners all the time tell me yeah I saw one or two. I go and see a dozen,” Tappero said.

Tappero showed Boston 25 News some video of deer from cameras he set up in yards where he has permission to bow hunt, and it highlights the exploding deer and tick problem.

"Sometimes they are absolutely covered [in ticks],” he says.

Like Tappero, there are many other hunters looking for homeowners with deer problems, and social media has made it easier for hunters to pair up with homeowners.

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"Hunters meeting people who need hunters, that's an issue," Tappero added.


For non-hunters, Dr. Mather urges residents to take other precautions as the temperatures drop, like covering up skin with long sleeves and pants and applying repellent. He also recommends keeping pets on tick preventatives year-round.

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