Pala Environmental Department News California

Tips about Ticks

Kurt Broz, Pala’s wildlife biologist, has first-hand experience with ticks. Here is his list of helpful information and advice to help you learn about and avoid these tiny pests.

Ticks are out in full force this year. Unfortunately, much of the information being passed around on disease and prevention is incomplete or false. Check out these fast facts about ticks to help you and your pets stay safe during summer fun.

  1. California has a few tick species. The two species most often encountered are the dog tick and the black legged tick.
  2. Several diseases can be passed by ticks. The most common ones seen in California are Lyme disease, relapsing fever, tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  3. Lyme disease is likely only passed on by black legged ticks in California, not the larger dog ticks.
  4. None of the home or herbal remedies designed to repel ticks seem to work – including vinegar, eucalyptus, and essential oils. I’ve personally seen ticks questing (looking for hosts) on eucalyptus, sage, and other highly aromatic plants. I’ve also seen people using these home remedies being bitten by ticks.
  5. Why don’t they work? Ticks don’t just rely on scent to find you or your dog. They can find hosts through vibrations, moisture, your exhaled breath (CO2), and heat. It doesn’t matter what you smell like.
  6. Insect repellents that contain DEET work, but are probably not 100% effective.
  7. Permethrin absolutely works to repel ticks, and I’ve used it successfully. It is a spray that can be applied to clothing and affects the nervous system of ticks and other invertebrates, but is perfectly safe for humans and dogs. Don’t spray it directly on your skin, but rather on clothing and let it dry before wearing. It is safe around birds and dogs – don’t spray it directly on your dog – but is NOT safe around cats or aquatic animals like fish. Ticks that do attempt to cling to your clothes will fall off quickly, damaged by the insecticide.
  8. HOW TO REMOVE A TICK: Don’t burn them, smother them, or anything other than just pulling them out. The safest, most effective way to remove a tick is to pull them out using tweezers. Get as close to the front of the tick near your skin as you can and yank straight out. Clean the bite with soap, water, and any topical disinfectants you want.
  9. WHAT TO DO IF I’M BITTEN: Watch the area around the bite for strange marks or an allergic reaction. If you have any concern, see a doctor.
  10. DON’T PANIC! Most diseases, like Lyme disease, of major concern spread by ticks need an incubation period for transmission. A tick generally needs to have bitten you for many hours for the disease to cross from the tick to you. For Lyme disease, a tick probably needs to be biting you for 24 hours to pass on the disease. I’ve had to pull way too many ticks off of me after hiking and have never gotten sick from a tick.
  11. You can also help prevent ticks around your home. Ticks can also bite other mammals like rodents, so keeping your yard free of trash that might attract rodents is helpful. Snakes, predatory birds, bobcats, and coyotes all help control rodents. Also, making your yard friendly to small animals like birds and lizards that eat ticks can help keep your family safe. Keep grasses mowed or removed from your yard as ticks often congregate in grasses to wait for new hosts.

Though ticks may seem gross, they are a natural part of our ecosystems. The best way to stay safe during tick season is to stay vigilant. If you hike or work in the yard, check yourself after you get back. Ticks like to bite in hard to reach areas, like under a belt, beneath some hair, or on the back. If your dogs are outside, be sure to check them too! Ticks love to bite around the ears and under collars. Just don’t let ticks ruin your fun!

Snake Safety

Every spring in Pala animals begin to stir and travel, including snakes. Pala has numerous species of snake, such as gopher snakes and king snakes. All of our snakes are beneficial, and most of these species are harmless. Pala does have a few species of rattlesnakes that are venomous and potentially dangerous; however, rattlesnakes do not want to bite you and are easy to avoid.

Rattlesnakes  prefer to stay hidden, move around at night, and prey on small mammals like rats and mice. These animals can carry dangerous diseases and destroy crops. In fact, every spring animals test positive for plague on nearby Palomar Mountain. When rattlesnakes and other animals eat these rodents, they are most likely to catch the sick and injured ones, thus preventing the spread of disease. Unfortunately for us and rattlesnakes, they can also be deadly to people and pets.

Many people kill rattlesnakes – and many other snakes they assume are dangerous – as a first option. Most people who are bitten are harassing or killing a snake, and many of those are young men who have been drinking. Even a dead snake still has venom in its glands for a short time after death. As a result, people have been bitten by dead snakes. Walking away is the safest option.

The first line of defense against snakes is to keep them away from your home. Remove trash and debris from your property, keep vegetation trimmed, and keep rodents out of your home. If this doesn’t work and you still walk out one morning to find a rattlesnake in your garage, you now have another option.

During the regular work week when he is available, our wildlife biologist can safely remove rattlesnakes from in and around buildings. We also have safety equipment to assist with some other wildlife issues, like taking injured birds away for care or taking an angry squirrel out of a pool.  We are also happy to talk about ways to bring the wildlife we want closer to home, like how to set up a native garden for butterflies, and how to keep unwanted wildlife away from our homes.

If you have a snake or small animal emergency that we might be able to help resolve, please contact our office at: (760) 891-3510 or (760) 891-3550.

Pala Environmental Department News California

Pala’s Big Cats on Camera

The Pala Environmental Department has been lucky enough to take part in several exciting wildlife research projects throughout the county. The newest project is aimed at monitoring mountain lions. Our wildlife biologist Kurt Broz has been assisting Dr. Winston Vickers, a veterinarian from UC Davis, and his crew with research that aims to track, and protect, our imperiled mountain lions.

Mountain lions (Puma concolor) were once found through the Americas, from Eastern Canada all the way down to the tip of South America. Unfortunately, hunting and loss of habitat from agriculture have driven them from much of their habitat east of the Mississippi River. They have found a stronghold out west and the population has been rebounding in recent years. In California, mountain lions (also called pumas, cougars, or panthers – or témevish in Cupeño) still face many problems, including illegal shooting and freeways. They can be dangerous to people but attacks are exceedingly rare. Mountain lions eat deer, rabbits, and other small animals.

The researchers who have been allowed access to Pala have several goals. They plan to set up bait sites using dead deer to attract and photograph mountain lions. Then, when a mountain lion is reliably returning to a bait station, they hope to trap the animal. The lion will be safely sedated so that the researchers can take blood samples and attach a radio collar, after which the animal will be released. These researchers have years of experience doing this with much success, which means that none of our lions will be harmed.

Why is PED participating in this research? The goal is to understand where mountain lions are hunting, how they’re traveling, and how we can best prevent them from negatively impacting human lives while conserving them. Information from this project is being used to place underpasses under Interstate 15 so coastal lions can mingle with interior lions (like the ones in Pala). This information is also being used to help find better ways to keep mountain lions from eating livestock, thus reducing the chance of mountain lions being killed. So far, researchers are tracking one mother and her cubs that occasionally wander into Pala and Pauma, and they hope to catch and collar a male seen on camera several times. Hopefully research like this can help mountain lions stay a wild part of Pala for generations to come.