Ticks are native insects that carry dangerous vector-borne illnesses. Ticks can be found in all sections of the San Dieguito River Park. While they are most commonly found in the warmer months, they are active all year around. Ticks in San Diego County have tested positive for Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, and Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever. In early 2018, ticks with Tularemia have been found in Sorrento Valley.
Most hard-bodied ticks attach themselves to their hosts with a method called questing. That is where they climb up onto something tall, like a plant twig, leaf, or shoot of grass and hold out their front arms. Ticks can neither jump nor fly, but instead wait for their host (ie. a dog, deer, or human) to brush by them and they in turn just grab on.
The Black-Legged Tick, commonly called deer tick, is the species associated with the transmission of Lyme Disease. While Lyme Disease is uncommon in San Diego County, it can be found on ticks in the back country and mountains. To avoid being bitten by ticks, stay on trail and avoid going cross country and bushwhacking. Wear white or bright colored clothes, long sleeved shirts, and pants with the socks rolled up over them. Apply insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin and clothing. When returning from the field, inspect your entire body including hair, armpits, groin area, etc. for ticks. Wash clothes and put them in the dryer. A tick will not survive one hour in a dryer set to hot.
If you happen to be bitten by a tick, use pointed tweezers and grab the tick by its mouth parts. Pull away in a slow and steady manner with gentle force and remove the tick in the same direction as its mouth parts, like you would a splinter. Save it in a plastic bag or jar so that it can be tested by County Vector Control. Wash the bite area with soap and water and see a doctor if you develop a fever or rash in the days or weeks afterwards.
Dogs can be very susceptible to ticks, tick bites, and the diseases they carry, so please inspect your canine companions after a hike and please keep them on leash when in the park so as to better protect them from being exposed to ticks.
It is your duty to stay vigilant and protect yourself!