Ticks are a common nuisance for hikers, gardeners and those who enjoy or work in the outdoors. Ticks are arthropods that feed on the blood of humans and other mammals (dogs, horses, deer), birds and reptiles. It is important to avoid tick bites as some species of ticks can spread diseases (like Lyme disease and others).
I found a tick — can you help identify it?
Ticks can be difficult to identify because:
- Size and color patterns change throughout a tick’s life. The larva and nymph stages are very small compared to adults.
- Male and female ticks look different.
- The size and appearance of ticks change if they have recently fed.
There are many species of ticks in Oregon, but only a few feed on humans or pets. Ticks to be familiar with are the American dog tick, the Pacific Coast tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the western blacklegged tick. Click on each link to see photos and a description. A hand lens or microscope may be needed to see certain identifying features.
Your county Extension office may be able to help identify ticks. It’s best to call first to see if they have staff with the expertise to assist you. Ticks must be preserved in two ways:
- Placing in a sealed container with enough isopropyl alcohol to cover the tick (available in the pharmacy section; the alcohol acts as a preservative).
- Placing in a sealed bag in the freezer. Note: Ticks that are damaged or stuck to tape are nearly impossible to identify.
Another option is to submit close-up, in-focus photos to our online Ask an Expert service. Ticks and/or close-up, in-focus photos can also be sent to the OSU Plant Clinic in Corvallis for identification. Follow the submission instructions on the clinic's website.
Do ticks in Oregon spread Lyme disease or other diseases?
Yes, Lyme disease, a bacterial disease, and other diseases spread by ticks have been found in Oregon.
The western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) is the primary species that pass Lyme disease to people and pets in the Western U.S., but some recent data suggests that only 3% to 8% of these ticks in Oregon carry the Lyme bacterium.
Ticks need to be attached to transmit Lyme disease. Cases of Lyme disease from tick bites in Oregon are very rare. Other related ticks (Ixodes species) can also carry Lyme disease and rarely bite people and pets.
Other diseases spread by ticks have been found in Oregon including tick-borne relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Colorado tick fever. Cases of these diseases being contracted by tick bites in Oregon are very rare but something to be aware of.
What can I do to protect myself from ticks?
In areas where ticks are common, or in areas you are unfamiliar with, avoid wooded, brushy or grassy areas. Stay on trails when hiking. Ticks in your yard can be reduced by removing leaf litter, clearing tall grasses and brush, and keeping wildlife out of your yard.
Keep ticks off your skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, tucking pant legs into socks, and wearing closed-toe shoes. Choose light-colored clothing so it’s easier to spot ticks. Use approved tick repellents according to the label directions. Use this online search tool to find the tick repellent that is best for your situation.
Perform daily tick checks on yourself and your children after working or playing outdoors. Ticks can be carried indoors on pets, clothing or outdoor gear. Taking a shower after being outdoors can help remove ticks from your skin before they can attach.
Pets can also be affected by ticks. Protect pets using an insecticide product effective against ticks. Check with your veterinarian for advice on choosing the best product.
Eek! I found a tick on me — what should I do?
Ticks found crawling on skin, clothing or gear can be disposed of by placing in alcohol or placing in a sealed container and thrown in the trash.
Ticks that have become attached need to be carefully removed and identified. Follow the removal steps in this video from the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter website. Place the tick in a sealed container with alcohol (isopropyl alcohol can be found in pharmacies) or in a sealed bag in the freezer. Private labs offer fee-based services to test ticks for common diseases. Check with your medical provider to see if this is recommended and any next steps.
Also reach out to your medical provider if you have difficulty removing the tick or develop any fever, rashes, aches or unusual symptoms after a tick bite.
- Ticks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information on preventing tick bites, removing ticks, and symptoms of diseases carried by ticks.
- Lyme disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information on signs, symptoms and testing for Lyme disease.
- TickEncounter. The University of Rhode Island. Tick identification resource; includes tick species found across the U.S., not just in Oregon.