Prevention is key for tick season

Felix Neck: “We even have a tick song.”

A deer tick —Courtesy U.S.D.A.

It’s peak tick season until mid-June, and long pants, socks, and repellant spray are key to avoiding tick-borne diseases like Lyme, according to Patrick Roden-Reynolds, head of the M.V. Tick Program. 

Roden-Reynolds said deer ticks and lone star ticks are the great concern on the Island.

Up to 40 percent of the Island’s deer ticks, or blacklegged ticks, are believed to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme, while 10 to 15 percent carry the parasite that causes babesiosis.

Deer, dogs, and other animals also can host lone star ticks, which can transmit a carbohydrate called alpha-gal that can cause a red-meat allergy in some people.

Roden-Reynolds recommended that people who spend extended time outdoors wear long pants and long sleeves, and long socks with closed-toe shoes. 

It’s best to focus on “before the bite” than deal with the debilitating diseases it could cause, he said. 

The popular children’s summer camp at Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary actively practices tick prevention techniques. 

Counselors and campers checked for ticks every day at the Fern and Feather Nature Camp in previous years, and plan to continue the practice this summer, according to Suzan Bellincampi, Islands director for Mass Audubon. 

Staff are also trained to identify ticks, she said. Parents are urged to make their children wear long pants, and apply an insect repellent spray containing either DEET or permethrin to their clothes.

“We even have a tick song to teach the kids,” Bellincampi said. 

She said trails at Felix Neck are kept wide, and grass is mowed, in an effort to reduce the risk of tick bites. Long grass, brushy areas, and spaces with leaf litter are prime tick habitats.

Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate the risk entirely. But there’s a growing effort to reduce the Vineyard’s deer population to keep the ticks in check. 

Island Grown Initiative, the Deer Management Program, and the M.V. Tick Program have joined forces to cull the deer each fall. 

According to Astrid Tilton with IGI, hunters donated 15 deer last year — the most ever — to a venison donation program that prepares protein-rich meals that are provided to the Island Food Pantry and Kinship Heals, a Wampanoag-centered food aid service.

“So many people see deer as a problem,” Tilton said. “I actually see them as a really awesome resource.” 

Roden-Reynolds, who is a public health biologist at Island Health Care, works alongside Tilton, spreading the word about deer donations. 

“It’s hard to tell how many deer we need to take,” he said. “There’s still plenty of deer out there.”


  1. It is amazing how ticks cause so many deadly diseases here and so little is done. Doctors are now hesitant to prescribe doxycycline and I do not see any island wide campaign to reduce tick infestation. I have seen many who suffer life long illnesses from just one tick bite.

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