Know your ticks: Beaver tick (Ixodes banksi)

Little is known about beaver ticks. These native ticks have been collected in Ontario as far north as the southern shores of Hudson's Bay, in Manitoba and, rarely, in Nova Scotia.

As their name suggests, beaver ticks primarily feed on beavers although they have also been found attached to muskrats. Because beavers are their main target, people rarely come in contact with them. Beaver ticks tend to congregate in beaver lodges where they have easy access to their favourite hosts. Those at greatest risk of having a run-in with them include biologists, trappers, wildlife rehabilitators and others who have reason to get up close and personal with beavers or their homes. If you don't fall into one of these categories, chances are you have nothing to fear from this tick.

What's important to know about beaver ticks is that because they primarily drink blood from beavers and muskrats, they can become infected with a plague-like illness called tularemia, which infects both of these charming semi-aquatic rodents. Beaver ticks collected in northwestern Ontario have also tested positive for bacteria in the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato bacterial complex (a.k.a the Lyme borreliosis complex), which means there is an outside chance you could contract Lyme disease if you are ever bitten by one. But chances are you won't be.

Diseases carried: Tularemia, possibly Lyme.

Where found: Nova Scotia, Ontario, southern Manitoba.

Photo courtesy of the US National Tick Collection at Georgia Southern University.