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6 Ticks in California to Know About (Pictures)

California is home to more than 47 species of ticks. Although ticks are tiny, they’re capable of spreading serious illnesses, including Lyme disease. Not only can ticks be harmful to humans, but they can also cause serious illness in pets!

Learning more about some of the most common ticks in California can help you to identify ticks and take the proper precautions when you’re spending time outdoors.

6 common ticks in California to be aware of

Even though the Golden State is home to many tick species, most of those ticks won’t harm humans. With that said, there are a few tick species that Californians should watch out for. These 9 ticks are commonly seen across California and pose a risk to humans, livestock, and pets.

1. Brown Dog Ticks

Brown dog tick
Brown dog tick | image by gailhampshire via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Also known as the kennel tick, these ticks feed on dogs. Brown dog ticks often lay eggs in dog houses, making it easy for them to infest pets. Dogs are at risk for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, which is why it’s important to check for these ticks on your dog’s fur.

Since these ticks thrive in clutter, you can deter them by keeping your backyard clean.

2. Pacific Coast Ticks

Pacific coast tick on the ground
Pacific coast tick | image by Jerry Kirkhart via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

This hard tick species attacks many different types of animals, including rodents, cattle, horses, and humans. It’s one of the most commonly seen tricks in California and can be found in most parts of the state.

While this tick is a major pest for Californians, it’s rarely seen in other parts of the United States. A pacific coast tick bite can cause headaches, fevers, and necrosis at the site of the bite.

3. Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks

Rocky mountain wood tick
Rocky mountain wood tick | image by Yellowstone National Park via Flickr

The Rocky Mountain Wood tick is a carrier for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the Colorado tick fever virus, and tularemia, a type of bacteria that causes hunter’s disease. These ticks can cause tick paralysis in wild animals, cattle, and humans.

While it’s rare to see these ticks in the more populated parts of California, they’re commonly seen in woodlands and along trails. They’re most common in Northeastern California.

4. Pajahuello Ticks

Pajahuello tick
Pajahuello tick | image by Derell Licht via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

This is a soft tick that’s most commonly seen in California’s coastal regions, especially in the area between San Diego and Humboldt county. While these ticks primarily feed on deer and cattle, they’ll take blood from humans as well.

When camping outdoors, check to make sure these ticks aren’t lurking in your bedding. These ticks release a toxin when they bite someone, which makes pajahuello tick bites easy to spot.

5. Western black-legged tick

Western black-legged tick
Western black-legged tick | image by Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons

Western black-legged ticks feed on reptiles, mammals, and humans. The saliva of these ticks can be highly irritating to human skin, which means people often experience irritation and inflammation after a tick bite.

It’s most common to see these ticks in parts of the state that are less dry, such as coastal regions and the Sierra foothills. Experts believe that these ticks are a major carrier of Lyme disease.

6. American Dog Ticks

American dog tick on wood
American dog tick male | image by K-State Research and Extension via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

These ticks are a major carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and hunter’s disease, making them one of the most dangerous tick species in California. In spite of their name, these ticks are happy to feed on a variety of animals, including humans.

You may also like:  Coyotes in California (Facts, Pictures)

While these ticks are usually found outdoors, they can also live indoors for short periods of time. Make sure you watch out for these tricks on hiking trails.

How to Avoid Ticks in California

Now that you are aware of the most common ticks in California and the diseases they may spread, it’s vital to understand how to avoid getting bit. Here are some common tips to follow to avoid getting bitten by ticks:

  • Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks.
  • Wear bug spray with less than 30% DEET.
  • Pre-treat clothing with a chemical repellant like permethrin
  • Stay towards the center of trails
  • Avoid tick-infested areas (i.e., high grass, off-trail trekking, etc.)

In addition to following the common practices above, you should also check yourself and your animals for ticks anytime you go to a place that may have been infested by ticks. Make sure to check the following areas on your own body:

  • Pubic area
  • Armpits
  • Neckline
  • Hair
  • Back of knees

Additionally, you should check your animals’ armpits and behind their ears very carefully. Finally, you should shower within two hours of coming indoors as this will help wash away any unattached ticks.

What Should I Do If I’m Bitten by a Tick in California?

If you find that you have been bitten by a tick, you should follow the following steps to remove it as quickly as possible:

  • Use tweezers to get as close to your skin as possible
  • Pull upward. Do not twist or jerk.
  • Once the tick is removed, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Flush the tick down the toilet, or if you’d like to get it identified, pour rubbing alcohol on it and place it in a sealed bag.

It is essential to remove a tick as soon as it has been identified. This will help prevent the spread of any diseases. You will want to monitor yourself for up to 30 days for the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain

If you experience any of the above symptoms, go see a doctor as soon as possible and make sure to mention the tick bite.

The Dangers Tick Pose in California

While tick bites can be uncomfortable and a little unnerving, the bite itself is not the main concern. Ticks are known vectors of several diseases that can be harmful to both humans and animals alike.

One of the most common diseases passed from tick to human is Lyme disease. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause joint pain and even negatively impact your central nervous system. Whether in California or any other state, it’s essential to be on the lookout for ticks and always see a doctor if experiencing symptoms after a tick bite.