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Watch out for ticks and poison ivy


Jordan and Jessica Sleboda of Wyoming each bagged a turkey on the Youth Day Hunt. The twins will be 13 on May 30.

I’m looking for a little sympathy here. You have no idea what it’s like being an outdoor reporter during the fifth wetness spring on record? More than half of the stories we had set up for this week had to cancel because of the storm front that parked itself over the state. Don’t get me wrong, real dedicated outdoor enthusiasts wouldn’t change their plans because of a little sprinkle or two and I consider myself one of those people. It’s just that our $40,000 camera gear can only withstand so much water before it simply stops working and that’s with rain gear. It has truly been a nightmare of a spring for videotaping outdoor stories.

We did manage to get out for a story or two for Pennsylvania Outdoor Life over the past two weeks. The rain stopped long enough for us to follow up on a story we did in Schuylkill County on the re-introduction of Pheasants. The hope is to establish a reproducing population from a few hundred transplanted birds from Montana. We hit the fields, armed with radio telemetry receivers in search of collared hen pheasants. We found what we were looking for plus a few dozen ticks. Three weeks ago we noticed an increased number of ticks in both Wayne and Wyoming Counties as well.

The ticks weren’t hard to find. After shooting the story, we headed back to the vehicles to take off our microphones. It was then that I noticed a tick crawling down the side of Pennsylvania Outdoor Life producer Brian Hollingshead’s face. I simply reached over and plucked it from his brow. That simple action turned out to be the beginning of a very uncomfortable afternoon. It seems like when you find one tick you start thinking that they are everywhere and it could send you into a never ending search for the little critters. This could drive you nuts. Our tick searches did discover several other hitch hiking members of the dog tick family.

There are about 25 different ticks that call Pennsylvania home. While most of them are annoyances, only a few are known to carry diseases from an infected host to other uninfected hosts. The most common and recognized carrier of disease is the deer tick. It is known to carry Lyme disease from infected mice and deer. I know several people who are still dealing with the effects of Lyme disease and it is no laughing matter. One outdoor writer from the Poconos ended up in intensive care because the Lyme disease spread to his heart. It is not a matter to take lightly.

If you happen to be bitten by a tick, remember that signs and symptoms of Lyme disease begin to appear, well after that particular tick is long gone. These signs and symptoms include a rash, severe flu like symptoms, migratory joint pain and in some cases neurological problems like Bell’s palsy. This is not a complete list of symptoms, so please visit your doctor if you are concerned. I do recommend that you talk about ticks and Lyme disease with your veterinarian if you have a dog or cat that spends time outside.

I don’t want you to be so scared about ticks that you cancel your outdoors plans. There are a few safety measures you can take to prevent exposure to ticks:

1. Avoid areas with a lot of ticks as much as possible. Ticks prefer wooded and bushy areas with thigh grass and a lot of leaf litter. I find a lot of them around secluded swamps and wetlands that have a large deer population.

2. Keep ticks off your skin. Wear long pants and tuck your pants into your socks to keep ticks off your skin. Light colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily.

3. Use insect repellents on your skin. Look for EPA-registered repellents. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label carefully. A few repellents are designed to be sprayed onto clothing instead of directly on the skin. Ask your pediatrician about what repellents are safe for your child.

4. Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks carefully and promptly remove ticks. Ticks usually need to feed for at least 36 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, so daily tick checks and prompt removal of the ticks prevent infection.

5. Remove a tick with tweezers. Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth. Don’t squeeze or crush the tick, but pull carefully and steadily. Once you’ve removed the entire tick, dispose of it and apply antiseptic to the bite area.

General use of insect repellents will also help mosquitoes. This wet weather will surely bring on a large batch of these biting fly machines. Be sure to dump out any standing water before the bugs move in.

Poison Ivy

I have also noticed an increased amount of poison ivy on my travels. Some researchers agree that poison ivy is growing bigger and bigger every year. Some say the increased amount of CO2 in the air is helping it to thrive. I don’t care what’s causing it. It is bigger and more widespread than ever and for some people it could mean a horrible rash and painful experience. Remember that all poison ivy has three leaves, but there are other plants with three leaves as well. If you’re not sure, leave it alone. You can get it from touching it, or touching something that has touched it, like your clothes or your dog. You normally get it from touching the leaves. Be sure it’s not in the way of your weed whacker. Using a weed whacker to remove poison ivy will result in spraying your legs with poison ivy. If you are bare-legged and get scratches splattered with sap from poison ivy, you may be headed to the emergency room.

If you think you have had a poison ivy encounter, it is best to react within the first several hours by rinsing with lots of cold water like a garden hose. Hot water will open your pores and let the oil in. Taking a shower could be a disaster by spreading the poison ivy all over the body. Washing with alcohol may still help remove the oil, but many say that after 1/2 hour the oil has already soaked in and cannot be removed.

This has been a very unusual spring. Remember to watch out for ticks and poison ivy. Be sure to watch Pennsylvania Outdoor Life tonight at 6:30 p.m. on WNEP TV. We’ll take you to Schuylkill County for an update on the pheasant restoration project. Have a great day!

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