This year's mild winter in much of the U.S. has meant a longer tick season. That has meant more contact between ticks and mammals like humans and dogs -- and more tick bites. It is still too early to be sure what this will mean for tick populations or the prevalence of tick-borne disease in the coming year.
"Annette Kowalczyk, a retiree, and her trusty dog, Beau, were extraordinarily active last month, relishing long walks through her suburban Chicago neighborhood — a pleasant change from last winter, when icy sidewalks and bitter cold made their favorite pastime downright treacherous.
Alas, for poor Beau, a bichon frisé who suffered a nasty tick bite in February, the balmy winter weather also appears to have encouraged legions of ticks to abandon their typically sedentary winter habit of lounging docilely under snow drifts, in favor of feasting heartily on a late-winter canine blood meal. ...
While entomologists say that the mild weather in much of the country this winter is unlikely to spawn a tick population explosion this spring and summer, they suggest that just like humans and dogs, the pesky critters appear to be enjoying the great outdoors a month or two earlier this year."
Karen Ann Cullotta reports for the New York Times March 18, 2012.