Ticks in Nevada

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: May 19, 2022
Image Credit KPixMining/Shutterstock.com
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If you live on Earth, you’re probably going to encounter a tick at some point in your life. Thanks to human exploration, not even the coldest reaches of Antarctica are safe from these tiny menaces. The same is true of ticks in Nevada. Nevada may not have the most ticks out of any state, but it certainly has its share. 

Ticks are obligate hematophages, which means that they drink blood, and only blood. An unengorged tick can be as small as the head of a pin, but a fully engorged tick can grow to the size of a penny. Ticks are born from eggs and go through three successive life cycles (larvae, nymphs, adults) before reproducing and dying.

Here, we’ll look at the four types of ticks in Nevada. Of these four, only the Rocky Mountain wood tick is considered common. Then, we’ll identify just where you’re most likely to find ticks and how to avoid them. Finally, we’ll go over which ticks carry Lyme disease and what symptoms you should watch out for after a tick bite.

How Do Ticks Hunt?

Ticks hunt using a method called questing. While questing, the tick holds out its front two legs (they have eight legs, like spiders). The front two legs wave in the air, just waiting for something to pass by that they can grab hold of. Ticks have no eyes, but they can sense both carbon dioxide (from respiration), body warmth, and smell. By questing, they’re able to attach themselves to whatever animal walks by, even if it happens to be a human.

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Dermacentor andersoni)

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, Dermacentor andersoni on a blade of grass.
These ticks are found along the entire Rocky Mountain belt, from the United States to Canada.

South12th Photography/Shutterstock.com

Rocky Mountain wood ticks are brown ticks with tan scuta (the hard shields on their backs). They’re the primary vectors for Colorado tick fever, though they can also spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These ticks are almost always found at elevations exceeding 4,000 feet above sea level.

American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

American Dog Tick sitting on a green leaf waiting for a host.
The American dog ticks are much bigger than Rocky Mountain wood ticks.

iStock.com/nechaev-kon

These ticks in Nevada are larger than other species and have red-brown bodies with tan mottling. They’re the primary vector for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which they can pass to humans through their bite. American dog ticks are also known as wood ticks.

Black-legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)

A Deer tick, a parasitic biting insect on background of human epidermis.
These ticks are also known as deer ticks because their favorite hosts are deer.

iStock.com/Ladislav Kubeš

The black-legged tick is the only type of tick in Nevada known to transmit Lyme disease. Fortunately, they’re extremely uncommon in Nevada. They’re mostly found in forested areas and prefer small to medium-sized hosts, like raccoons and deer.

Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Close-up of brown dog tick crawling on human skin.
Brown dog ticks live indoors.

iStock.com/RobertAx

In Nevada, brown dog ticks are the only ticks that live indoors. That’s right; not even indoors are safe from ticks. These ticks have long, almost rectangular bodies and feed almost exclusively on canines. 

Are there Many Ticks in Nevada?

Ticks are most populous in areas that have warmth, humidity, and plenty of animals to feed on. They can be found in both forests and grasslands, where they spend their springs and summers feeding and their winters hibernating. Ticks in Nevada are most active in the early summer and fall months, with activity dropping off sharply during the hottest and coldest times of the year.

Do Ticks in Nevada have Lyme Disease?

Tick Header - Tick Burrowed In
Lyme disease is an insidious, often misdiagnosed disease.

Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com

There aren’t many ticks in Nevada, and thankfully, only one species transmits Lyme disease. Black-legged ticks carry the pathogen for Lyme disease. When they bite humans, they pass a little bit of their saliva into the victim’s bloodstream. If the tick is carrying Lyme disease, then that saliva just might transfer this emerging disease to the human host. Because of this, it’s important to self-monitor after any tick bite for signs of Lyme disease.

Where do Ticks Live in Nevada?

Because ticks prefer warm, humid environments, they aren’t as widespread in Nevada as they are in other parts of the United States. Nevada is simply too dry to sustain a large population of ticks. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no ticks in Nevada. You’re most likely to encounter a tick in this arid state while exploring sagebrush-laden areas or regions with lots of bunchgrass. But, outdoor ticks aren’t the only kind you’ll find in Nevada. There’s also the brown dog tick, which can be found indoors in places that house dogs.

How to Avoid Ticks in Nevada

A Dog tick drunk on blood crawls on human skin.
Permethrin is an effective tick repellent, but you don’t want to spray it directly on your skin.

Afanasiev Andrii/Shutterstock.com

Thankfully, there aren’t many ticks in Nevada to worry about. However, it’s best to take precautions to avoid a nasty and traumatizing, bite. When it comes to avoiding tick bites, the most important thing to remember is not to walk through thick brush or grass that brushes against your skin or clothes. Because ticks usually hang out on the edges of foliage, and cannot jump, they need you to brush by in order to hitch a ride.

If you’re planning on taking your canine companion hiking in Nevada with you, remember to treat them with flea and tick prevention beforehand. And, when you’re all done doing outdoor activities, be sure to check both yourself and your dog for ticks. If you find any, remove them as soon as possible, and disinfect the wound.

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