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Warmer winters may mean a longer tick season for Southwest Michigan

A hand holds a pair of tweezers, attempting to grasp a small tick on their other hand. The other hand holds a long thick piece of white cloth used to collect ticks for later research. The hand also holds a clear vial with a cap to store the soon-to-be captured tick. The researcher wears a dark blue shirt with sky blue lettering read "Take it outside", three white pine trees add a bit of extra flair to the shirts design.
Leona Larson
A tick pictured at the Kalamazoo's Kleinstuck Nature Preserve during a tick drag, where researchers collect ticks for later study

Some days this winter it’s felt more like spring. Public health experts say that means people should watch out for a certain eight-legged parasite.

Tick season does not usually kick off until April in Southwest Michigan. But given the recent high temperatures, people should check themselves for ticks during these would-be-winter months.

That’s according to Lucus Pols with Kalamazoo County Environmental Health.

“Anytime really it gets above 40 degrees, these critters seem to like to come out,” Pols said.

Other counties are also preparing their residents for an early tick season. Kris Dewey is with the Branch-Hillsdale-Saint Joseph Community Health Agency.

She said an earlier start to the season may become more common if winters continue to warm.

“I think we have to remember that nature continues to adapt and evolve and change. So, will the ticks adapt, evolve and change and start appearing earlier? Probably,” Dewey said.

This is a sentiment shared by Pols, who said Kalamazoo County may need to adjust its tick tactics.

“If things continue like this, we could be moving our surveillance for ticks earlier and earlier every year,” Pols said.

Pols says an earlier and longer tick season may mean more cases of Lyme Disease and other tickborne illnesses.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.