Officials to study ticks in Alaska to determine danger level
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A new project will examine ticks found in Alaska to see if they carry the pathogens that cause Lyme disease, tularemia or other illnesses.
This is the first time researchers will go out looking for ticks in Alaska parks and examine whether those ticks carry diseases, the Anchorage Daily News reported .
“As the climate changes and ticks are moving north, we need a baseline,” said Kimberlee Beckmen, a wildlife veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.
“It’s important to have the baseline so we can monitor things before they become a problem,” said Micah Hahn, an assistant professor of environmental health at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the lead on the new research project.
The research team includes biologists, veterinarians and researchers from the University of Alaska, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Office of the State Veterinarian.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that ticks that infest red squirrels, snowshoe hares and some birds have long been found in parts of the state in 2016.
Then, during a study of ticks collected in Alaska between 2010 and 2016, a team of biologists and veterinarians, including Beckmen and state veterinarian Bob Gerlach, identified five non-native species in Alaska, including the Lone Star tick and the American dog tick.
Non-native ticks arrive in Alaska regularly on animals and people from outside the state, Beckmen said.
Now that researchers know non-native ticks are here, Gerlach said, the next step is determining the health risks they pose to people, pets and wildlife.
In May, the University of Alaska Anchorage acquired a $125,000, one-year grant to study ticks in Alaska. The research will be done in collaboration with Fish and Game and the Office of the State Veterinarian, Hahn said.
Next summer, the team will search for ticks at parks in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula, she said.
Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com