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TWINSBURG -- Did you enjoy the mild winter? So did the ticks, unfortunately, and they are hungry in Liberty Park.
Summit County Metro Parks officials have said that the two recent warm winters have led to a significant uptick in the tick population.
"The last couple of mild winters have resulted in an ... explosion of ticks in the county," Summit Metro Parks biologist Rob Curtis said. "One of the best things we can do for the public is make them aware, so they can be prepared."
Spokesperson Nathan Eppink said the park district is sharing information about ticks on social media, on its website at summitmetroparks.org and in park kiosks in locations where ticks may be encountered.
He said ticks can be picked up on low-growing vegetation any time temperatures are above freezing, but they are most active in spring and fall.
Ohio has the American dog tick, the blacklegged tick (often called the deer tick) and the lone star tick, generally only found in southern Ohio, Eppink said.
Deer ticks, which are black and often have a rust colored crescent, are about the size of a sesame seed, prefer the woods and can be active year-round, Eppink said.
Dog ticks are larger, brown with a light ornamentation or pattern on their backs, and prefer grassy areas like meadows and prairies.
Ticks are blood feeders, meaning they must find a host, take a bite and then drink their meal. They need to feed for at least 24 hours before disease transmission to the host is possible, so the best way to prevent illness is to prevent ticks from even getting on you -- and your dog, Eppink says.
"Many of the people who work outdoors with me have warned me that there are more ticks this year," said Stanley Stine, Twinsburg city naturalist.
Stine said that in his experience, ticks like to hang around on grasses. He said he usually finds them on his pants.
"People need to be observant," Stine said. "Adults and children who are occasional users of the parks and fields should spray repellant on their clothing. They should stick to the wider trails so their clothing doesn't brush up against the grasses. If they go on a hike with someone, at the end, they should do tick checks so you aren't carrying any extra passengers home."
Summit Metro Parks officials encourage using a bug spray that contains at least 25 percent DEET; wearing a long-sleeve shirt and long pants tucked into your boots or socks; staying on designated trails and avoiding brushing up against vegetation; and wearing clothing that is light in color for tick removal.
As well, people can tumble dry their clothing on high heat for an hour to kill any ticks. Keeping pets leashed and on trails during walks will also assist those furry companions.
In the case of a bite, Metro Parks officials say to remove the tick using a pair of tweezers, firmly grasping it near its head. Using even pressure, pull the tick straight out until it is no longer attached. Check the tick to make sure its head came out, too.
After the tick has been removed, wash the area with soap and water. Place the tick in a plastic bag, and then put it in the freezer or a container with rubbing alcohol.
"This way, if you go to the doctor, you can give them the tick that bit you," Eppink said.
"Lyme disease is something people have to really be careful about," Stine said. "The larval stage of the deer tick is especially worrisome."
The reason? Their tiny size makes this bloodsucker especially hard to spot, Stine said.
People should still feel free to enjoy the outdoors, but make sure to do a tick check later, he said.
"That is the best thing you can do," he said.