The Year of the Tick

Ticks on a mountain hare
Ticks on a mountain hare

Also, having just picked two of the little buggers off my legs, it’s worth mentioning that I have never known a year like this for ticks. The Galloway hills have been absolutely covered with them since late May, and the past few days have seen a real peak in activity. Ticks prefer some people more than others, and I am usually quite immune to their attentions. In eight years of spending at least part of almost every day on the hill, I have only had one tick get a proper grip on me. He stuck his jaws into the vulnerable pink expanse of my shoulder, and I pulled him out piece by piece with a pair of tweezers. I always imagined that something about me was relatively unappealing to them, but over the past six weeks I have found several in the early stages of vampiric frenzy, particularly in the vicinity of my ankles and in the ring around my waist.

The roe have been surprisingly well populated with ticks, and a good hunt through their coats, inside their thighs and behind their ears has often revealed around a dozen engorged individuals – not a worryingly high number, but a considerable increase on previous years. The dog has hosted her fair share of both sheep and deer ticks, and while shooting in Aberdeenshire on Friday, we ended up with some very ticky hares (as per photo above). A bad year for ticks obviously has had implications for livestock and grouse production, but it also has a wider impact on the access-taking general public, many of whom are totally ignorant of the potential health implications of tick bites.

The general consensus is that this has been a productive year for small, blood-sucking insects across Scotland, but from what I have seen, Galloway has been one of the worst areas.


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