Do Ticks Hibernate During Winter?


Maine winters can be brutal. From monster Nor'Easters to temperatures that would even make a polar bear shiver, it takes the heartiest of people and critters to survive the long winter months. Maine is known for our lobsters and moose, and our state bird, the mosquito, but while mosquitoes and other insects don't survive the winter, perhaps the most worrisome pest has been.

Here at the clinic, we don't need to consult any big studies or statistics to discover that ticks are prominent, even during our harsh winters; the amount of phone calls and questions in the exam rooms are enough to support it. With several species of ticks taking residence in Maine, they've adapted quite well to our changing seasons. 

Closer To Home

Years ago if you were actively seeking out ticks, a trek deep into the woods or a sea of tall grass are the places you would need to go. Now we're finding them right in our front yards. Ticks actively seek out moisture, which is why you may notice more of them during or after a period of rain, or notice them burrowing into brush and leaf piles. 

Once the snow flies, it was believed that ticks would either go into a state of hibernation or die off. This does not seem to be the case, though, since many pet owners continue to find ticks on their animals even with several inches of snow on the ground. The snow acts as a blanket for these parasites, keeping them nice and insulated. Recent studies have also suggested that ticks that carry Anaplasmosis are more likely to survive in the winter. The Anaplasmosis serves as a natural anti-freeze, making the tick problem in Maine that much scarier. Once there is any sort of thawing or melting, they re-emerge ready for dinner. 

A live look into the snowy lives of Maine ticks.

A live look into the snowy lives of Maine ticks.

Minimizing The Risk

So what can you do to minimize your pet's risk (and yours too!) of getting exposed to tick-borne illnesses? Below are some helpful hints:

  • Keep yard free of leaves and brush
  • Do regular tick checks every time you come in from outside
  • Keep your dog up to date on their Lyme vaccine
  • Treat your pet with flea and tick preventatives year round

Unfortunately there isn't a vaccine for Anaplasmosis or Ehrlichiosis, but the best way to protect your pet from these illnesses is flea and tick preventatives. Have an indoor only animal? We suggest they be on preventatives as well since ticks (and fleas) like to hitch a ride on you or another pet to where it's nice and warm, like your living room.

The thought of having to combat ticks during the winter is pretty daunting, especially when it's not something we've ever had to be conscious of. But the tick population has taken up residence in Maine and it doesn't look like they plan on taking the winters off anytime soon.

For more information about ticks, please check out the following resources: