Type of Ticks in Idaho

Type of Ticks in Idaho

Idaho is a well-known northwestern U.S State primarily known for its mountain landscapes and outdoor recreation areas.  Being enriched with outdoor recreation activities, tourists and people in Idaho are likely to get infected by ticks as these areas are dense and moist, which is favorable for tick habitat. This blog is focused on sharing knowledge about different types of ticks in Idaho and how to protect yourself from Idaho ticks.

Are There Ticks In Idaho?

You can find a huge population of ticks in Idaho, especially in the denser regions including forests, shrublands, and in bushy areas having hot and humid climate. According to the Idaho Humane Society, Rocky Mountain wood ticks are considered very threatening in Idaho. That is why, the most common tick infection observed in Idaho is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). Lyme disease, Tick paralysis, and Tularemia are also spread through Idaho ticks.

In recent times, Panhandle Health District has seen an increase in tick-related diseases and tick-bite calls in Idaho. Ticks in Idaho carry different types of bacteria, viruses, and protozoans resulting in severe infections and tick diseases in people.

Though Lyme disease is a national threat in the US, cases are comparatively less in Idaho. Idaho has a minimal population of deer ticks (ticks that carry Lyme disease) compared to other regions in the USA. Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Tularemia, and tick-borne relapsing fever are the most common diseases in Idaho.

Different Types Of Ticks In Idaho

Rabbit Tick:

Hemaphysalis leporispalustris, commonly known as the rabbit tick, thrives in the forest regions of Idaho. They are 0.12 inches long. They are tan to reddish-tan in color and have scutum like all hard ticks. There is an absence of any embellishments on the scutum. They are active in the spring and summer months in Idaho. Another prominent feature is the presence of festoons in adult rabbit ticks.

Who are their hosts?

The rabbit ticks are three-host ticks that feed on rabbits in their adulthood. While in their nymph and larvae stages, they may prefer smaller mammals or ground birds as they consume the blood of animals and birds. These hosts may become anemic or sometimes die. They hardly prey on humans.

They may be carriers of diseases such as Tularemia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These ticks may not contract the pathogens from a reservoir animal alone but through the transovarial method where the disease spreads from pregnant female ticks to their eggs. These diseases may cause severe, life-threatening, long-term effects if left untreated.

Winter Tick: 

Another type of tick found in the province of Idaho is Dermacentor albipictus, or the winter ticks, or moose ticks.

Who are their hosts?

They are one host’s ticks. This means they require one host for their entire life cycle. The winter tick prefers moose as its host. Other animals which may fall prey to the moose tick are bears, deer, beavers, elk, mountain sheep, coyotes, or reindeer.

According to studies, due to a lack of grooming in moose, they can host up to 100,000 ticks per season. The eggs are laid sometime between the end of May and the beginning of June. The larvae may hatch in the summer when it is warmer. The adults of these ticks are active during winter.

The tick-infested moose an experience the following symptoms that include 

  • Itching
  • Irritation and hair loss are the results of excessive grooming. 
  • Weight loss due to reduced consumption of food.
  • Loss of blood along with wound marks.
  • Unusual grooming behavior. As there is high discomfort, they tend to groom abnormally. 

Moose are likely to get bit during their mating seasons. Hair loss could expose the skin, which can be fatal for the moose. These are called “ghost moose.”

Are they a problem for humans?

Winter ticks do not affect humans and transmit tick diseases. This is because they do not carry any disease-causing pathogens harmful to humans. According to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, winter ticks do not transmit diseases to domestic animals such as horses, cows, cattle, etc. Even consumption of the tick-infected cattle might not create much of a tick disease threat to humans.

Brown Dog Ticks:

The brown dog tick, scientifically known as Rhipicephalus sanguineus, is one of the widespread ticks in Idaho. Brown dog ticks transmit various diseases during their nymph, larvae, and adult stages. They require a warmer climate to survive and so they are common in tropical and subtropical areas and seldom in temperate regions.

What are the diseases they may transmit?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsia). (RMSF is a disease with a mortality rate of more than 20%.)

Canine ehrlichiosis 

Canine babesiosis 

What is the feeding behavior?

Brown dog ticks can survive for up to 18 months without feeding. These ticks can survive inside homes and can also stay inside homes. If your pet dog is not on anti-tick prevention, you or your family becoming a victim of its bite is pretty high. 

When can one encounter ticks?

One can encounter brown dog ticks throughout the year. The brown dog ticks, male and female, are dimorphic. Both the male and female of the brown dogs have a reddish-brown appearance. They have no ornamentation on their bodies. Adult ticks may grow up to 0.12 inches long.

Brown dog ticks can complete up to 4 generations per year. The number of generations per year depends on factors such as:

  • Beneficial climate 
  • Host availability

Due to rising temperatures resulting from climate change, scientists say that the chances of brown dog ticks biting humans are high. The females feed for a week, and it takes 7–14 days to digest the meal. After digestion, the female may lay up to 4,000 eggs. Conducive environments for egg-laying are inside homes, crevices, wood, kennels, and ledges, whereas the males would feed for a shorter duration. 

The egg hatching takes up to 2 to 5 weeks. The adults of these ticks can be encountered from January through November or from April through July. Nymphs and larvae are encountered during June, July, and August. 

Preferable Hosts

As the name suggests, brown dog ticks prefer dogs as hosts. They bite on the ears, neck, head, and back of the dogs. But humans may also get bitten by these dogs.

What are the precautions to take to avoid a brown dog tick infestation?

Get to know about Ticks and their habitat.

Check kennels and homes for brown dog ticks or their eggs.

Make sure to check pets, especially dogs, for any ticks. The sooner one finds the tick, the lesser the chance of disease transmission.

Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks:

The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick thrives in the Pacific coastal regions and subalpine ecosystems. Rocky Mountain ticks prefer grassy, wooded, and forested areas like most other ticks. 

Rocky Mountain ticks can be mistaken for American Dog Ticks. This tick is a hard tick. It has a scutum with silver-gray ornamentation. The RMSW ticks are brown in color. They have festoons. They have a pear and a flat look. The number of goblets differentiates these ticks from other ticks. The adults, like most of the ticks, are 0.12 inches. The females lay up to 4,000 eggs every single time.

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick Diseases

Rocky Mountain wood ticks can spread diseases that may cause long-term effects. They are active from early spring to mid-summer. The diseases are as follows:

  • Colorado tick fever virus (CTFV) occurs in humans
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) rickettsia (Rickettsia rickettsii) occurs in humans and dogs.
  • Anaplasma marginale is another disease that occurs in cattle.

They also cause tick paralysis. This occurs both in humans and in dogs. But in the case of dogs, it could be fatal if immediate action is not taken. After 24–72 hours after tick removal, the tick paralysis resolves. 

Who are the hosts?

The Rocky Mountain Spotted Wood nymphs and larvae consume the blood of voles, chipmunks, and squirrels. While adults prefer humans, sheep, dogs, etc., Humans are also susceptible to rocky mountain tick bites and hence it is essential to look out for these ticks while you are in Idaho.

Western Blacklegged Ticks

Western Blacklegged ticks are also known as Ixodes pacificus. They are flat, and black or brown, and carry various pathogens that cause diseases that have chronic effects. Mid to late May is when Western Legged ticks lay their eggs. Larvae feed on rodents, lizards, birds, squirrels, and mice.

They contract these diseases from reservoir animals. The nymphs and adults are both a threat to humans as they feed on them.

One may encounter the nymph from May to August. Females feed during October and May. This is the time for the breeding season. They are hence active throughout the winter in the absence of snow.

What are the diseases these ticks may cause?

The Western Blacklegged tick is the vector of the pathogens which cause the following diseases:

  • Borrelia miyamotoi disease, also known as Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF), is caused by the pathogen Borrelia miyamotoi.
  • Canine Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis Rickettsiosis:
  • Powassan virus

Soft ticks In Idaho

There are about 193 species of this tick in Idaho. The soft ticks do not have a shield like the hard ticks. They have a wrinkled appearance. The males and females swell and enlarge in size after feeding. From the top, one may not be able to view the mouth part. They are 14 inches in length and reddish-brown in color.


Cabins or homes with rodents are likely to have these ticks in abundance. You can also find soft ticks in attics and cracks in walls. When the larva develops into a nymph and later into an adult, it may have skin that acts as a tough protective layer. They have holes called coxal pores. These are for excretion purposes. They wait in the nest or dwelling of birds or animals for their meal.

These ticks may prefer any animal or bird as a host. The lack of specific prey may be due to their microhabitat. They feed multiple times and reproduce many times. A female can lay less than 500 eggs per cycle. 

The soft ticks do not mate with the host. They mate after or before the consumption of blood from the host. The two Carios species and two Ornithodoros species are said to carry pathogens that affect humans. If ticks are not scratched, squished, or burnt, the ticks may release their saliva into the blood of the victim. If the tick is not removed, the saliva might cause threatening consequences leading to the increase in the number of infectious pathogens.

The soft ticks in Idaho may spread the following diseases:

  • Lake Clarendon virus 
  • Borrelia anserine
  • Kyasanur forest disease virus  
  • Quaranfil virus 
  • Gissar virus 
  • Latyshevyi and persica Issyk-Kul viruses

The Carios capensis tick is capable of transmitting diseases such as Borrelia, Coxiella, and Rickettsia, as well as the West Nile virus.

North Idaho Ticks

North Idaho is the home of several tick varieties. Few selected tick species can bite and transmit severe diseases to humans and animals. Listed below are the most common tick species:

  1. Brown Dog Tick(Rhipicephalus sanguineus) – These ticks are mostly found in and around human settlements. They can also be found in animal pens and dog kennels. Their life cycle is less than three months. They spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to dogs and rarely to humans. You can control the tick infestation by treating the house, treating the dogs, treating the yards, and sanitizing the home. It may take several weeks to eradicate the tick infestation.
  2. American Dog Tick(Dermacentor variabilis) – These ticks are mostly found in grasslands and scrub areas. Their lifecycle is approximately two years. These ticks transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. American Dog ticks can survive on multiple hosts.
  3. Western Black-legged Tick(Ixodes Pacificus) – These ticks are very small and cause significant problems. These ticks spread Lyme Disease, but they are less seen in North Idaho.
  4. Rocky Mountain Wood Tick(Dermacentor andersoni) – These ticks are mainly found in open grasslands and shrublands. Their life cycle varies from two to three years. Their saliva contains a neurotoxin that causes tick paralysis in humans and animals. They mainly spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Lyme Disease in Idaho

Ticks in Idaho do not transmit Lyme Disease. The few medical cases reported with Lyme disease are through people who travel between eastern and midwestern areas in the US. Experts have confirmed that Idaho is home to plenty of ticks, but there is only a minimal population of blacklegged ticks in the region.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Idaho

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most reported tick disease in Idaho. It is because of the highest population of dog ticks in the region. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever(RMSF) was first reported in Idaho in the early 1800s. It is usually transmitted through tick-bite by bacteria named Rickettsia rickettsii. RMSF can be life-threatening if not diagnosed early. You can take the following precautions:

  1. Avoid bushy and wooden areas. Keep your garden and yard clean
  2. Examine the pets carefully when they roam outside the home
  3. Use Permethrin in your clothes and boots
  4. Shower after being in outdoors

The rash is a common symptom. Fever and headaches can also occur. You can consult your doctor if you suspect any symptoms.

Prevention of Ticks in Idaho

  • Spraying acaricide could help reduce the number of soft ticks. 
  • Ticks eating animals and birds could be helpful.
  • Permethrin on clothes is the best option while stepping outdoors.
  • Tick repellents on the body could keep ticks away.
  • Checking for ticks on dogs and other pets and regularly removing ticks on time.


Ticks in Idaho keep on increasing due to the climatic conditions. Soft and hard ticks in Idaho are dangerous to humans and animals as they transmit diseases. Keeping away from tick-infested regions may help, but it is more important to stay aware and take necessary precautionary measures to keep yourself and your pets and cattle away from tick infections. Idaho ticks are prominent in spreading RMSF and hence you should look out for symptoms of RMSF. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor if you have any of its symptoms.