It was only a matter of time until a tick showed up

I spend a fair amount of time in the woods. It comes with the territory.

Write an outdoors column, and serve as the BDN’s outdoors editor, and “spending time playing outside” is kinda in the job description.

And for the last decade or so, I’ve heard (and written) plenty of stories about ticks.

“Watch out for ’em,” folks kept telling me. “Be vigilant,” they said.

The fear, of course, is not the ticks themselves. It’s Lyme disease, which is carried by some deer ticks.

Many people are unaware of being bitten by the deer tick (far right). At the highly infectious nymphal stage (left), the deer tick is about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

But over the years, as friends and co-workers told me their tick tales, I remained unscathed. I saw one or two crawling on my hunting jacket. But that was as far as my experience went.

Until this morning.

Actually, I need to step back in time a bit farther. On Sunday, my hunting pal Chris Lander and I spent some time in the woods, putting up ground blinds and checking a trail camera in preparation for this weekend’s residents-only opening day of deer season.

Then I came home, watched the Patriots and the Red Sox, and went to bed.

Which brings us to this morning: 5:40 a.m., to be precise. That’s when I rolled over, hopped out of bed, and felt a subtle burning on my right hip. When I reached for the spot, I found that I’d apparently rubbed up against a splinter … I could feel it sticking out of my hip.

Except I hadn’t been near any wood that would have left splinters.

A quick trip to the bathroom mirror showed me the real problem: I’d been bitten. To be more accurate, I was still being bitten.


As I mentioned, I’ve written more than a few words about ticks. And I’ve edited even more, including stories that my colleague, Aislinn Sarnacki, has written over the past couple of years.

And I knew that there were things I should do … and shouldn’t … to get rid of the critter that had burrowed its way into my flesh.

At 5:40 in the morning, with a whining dog at my feet, I thought about all that tick information I’d ingested over the years. The problem: I couldn’t remember which tips were the in the “do” category, and which were in the “don’t.”

So I did what I suspect many of us would have done (or have done): I muckled onto the little bugger and yanked him out. Then I went downstairs, stuck the blood-thirsty critter in a small baggie, and saved him for later.

My boss has some experience with ticks, you see. And I knew she’d be able to identify my captive and tell me what I should do next.

As it turns out, everything was OK. The tick wasn’t a deer tick — it was far too big. And I’d gotten the entire thing out, which was key (gross fact: He’s still sitting on my desk, walking around in his plastic-bag prison).

But it got me thinking, again. And writing about ticks, again.

And saying the same thing I’ve said before (but saying it much more forcefully):

Watch out for ticks. Be vigilant. And spend a few minutes to learn what to do when one decides to munch on you.

Because eventually, they will. Trust me. They will.

Follow John Holyoke on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.