Raccoons,Turkeys and Deer! Oh My!

Yes, sports fans, I did indeed see all of those things today. First it was the mama raccoon crossing the road with three younglings. Then it was a whole family reunion of turkeys (at least two Toms with a couple hens and some younglings). Finally, I saw a solo doe. Maybe her kids were still in school. Alas, I was too slow with my old camera to get any pictures.

How did I accomplish this zoological feat on a work day, you ask? Well, today was another tick collecting day. These critters were all crossing the one of the back roads while I was wandering around LOST! I'm hereby resolving to purchase myself a Gazetteer for my state since the Google Maps seem to be not sufficiently accurate and the street signs may well have been "adjusted" so as to point in the wrong directions. Fortunately I have some semblance of an innate sense of direction and was able to at least keep going generally to the west, knowing that I'd sooner or later hit highway 70 and be able to re-establish navigation from there. But I did spend about 45 minutes wandering around the Backside of Nowhere. (During which time Twitchh sent me a text message telling me that Nowhere had called and wanted its backside back. I very nearly shot coffee out my nose and onto the windshield.)

Now, for the most important question: Why on earth was I out collecting ticks? Am I nuts? By now, you should know the answer to the latter is "yes". The answer to the former is that I'm working on a Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) project with colleagues from elsewhere in the state and also helping to characterize which tick species live where in the state. Later this year I'll be taking the lead in a collaborative project with CDC on RMSF.

The next question is invariably "How do you catch ticks?". This is easy. You drag a piece of white flannel behind you as you walk through the woods and other appropriate tick habitat. The ticks which are out looking for critters to feed on will grab onto the flannel as it goes past, then you stop periodically and remove the ticks from the drag, putting them in alcohol-filled vials. Yes, I wear repellent on myself and I check myself thoroughly for ticks at the end of the day. I have found several ticks on me at the end of collecting days, but never any embedded ticks. I also know to seek medical attention and a nice doxycycline prescription if I develop a fever, headache, rash, myalgia, etc.--the usual signs/symptoms of tick-borne disease. Today I found lots of ticks. Two weeks ago I wasn't as lucky. I'll go out again in two weeks.

I really enjoy fieldwork. I like to get out of the office and actually DO some epidemiology/public health stuff. It's a nice change from crunching numbers and analyzing things with the computer. The weather today was gorgeous--in the upper 80s to lower 90s, with a light breeze--and I had a Dean Koontz audiobook to listen to while I wandered around the woods. All in all, it was a great day. I had so much fun that I completely forgot to eat lunch! I didn't even figure that out until I got back into town at 5 pm and realized I was really hungry.

Gratuitous photo from my Florida vacation:
This is as close as we got to the shuttle launch pad 39B. The two wide driveways to the left are actually the crawler tracks. The tour took us past 39B to 39A as well and also to the landing strip. Very cool and definitely worth the extra money for up close bus tour!!


Stefaneener said…
Hooray ticks! Really, your life is fascinating. I usually collect them by letting the dog and kids run around and then scritching heads during bedtime. . . eeek!

But they're usually harmless big ugly dog ticks. No problem, just heebie jeebies.

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