Ticks in Summit County

Ticks are small arachnids with 8 legs and two body segments: the “body” and the mouth. Ticks are further divided into two categories, either “hard” or “soft” ticks (soft being uncommon). 

Ticks have four life stages and most require blood from other organisms in order to molt and reproduce. They are determined by the number of hosts they feed from in their lifetime: either one, two, or three- host ticks. 

The primary species of tick found in Utah is the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, which often comes into houses on infested pets. Other species include the Winter Fern Tick, Mountain Sheep Tick, Western Black-Legged Tick and Brown Dog Tick.

Soft Ticks

Soft ticks lack the hard plate that covers the body of the hard tick. These ticks can live up to 20 years, as they can survive long periods without feeding. Additionally, these ticks feed more like bed bugs, feeding in less than an hour. Unlike hard ticks, which grow as they feed, soft tick’s bodies can expand up to 10 times their original size during feeding. 

In Utah, two soft ticks are capable of transmitting disease. The species Ornithodorous Parkeri can carry Borrelia parkeri (a recurring fever), but transmission is rare as this tick is rarely encountered. Another species, O. hermsi, can carry a different strain of the same tick borne relapsing fever. This tick resides in high, forested elevations, often encountered in old cabins. 


Ticks are most commonly found from snowmelt (early spring) to mid-July. Moist springs spark tick activity, but hot, dry summer conditions inhibit growth. Often they reappear in the fall as temperatures drop. 


Hard ticks perch atop vegetation and grab on to hosts as they pass. Once on the host, the tick finds a feeding spot and attaches. Ticks inject a numbing agent when they bite, so bites are painless and often go undetected. The tick then secretes a cement like substance to anchor it to the host, making them very hard to remove. Ticks stay attached to the host for 2 to 3 days, during which disease can be transmitted.

Tick Bites 

Ticks prefer warm places in which they can burrow themselves without detection from their host. Important places to check for ticks include the scalp, ears, underarms, bellybutton, groin, pelvic area, backs of knees and between the toes (illustrated in the infographic below)

Ticks need to have bitten their host in order to transmit disease. A tick crawling atop the skin is not a cause for concern of disease, but it may indicate the presence of other ticks. 

Tick Prevention

There are many things you can do to decrease the probability of a tick bite. 

Tick spay or repellent, which is used similar to bug spray, has been shown to reduce the change of a tick bite. Tick repellants are most effective when they contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. The EPA has a website available to find the best repellent for you:


Conduct tick checks when returning from wooded areas or long grass. Check pets periodically for ticks, making sure to pay close attention to the ‘armpit’, groin, and ear areas.

Wear long pants, and high socks when hiking outdoors. Avoid common tick areas during the spring months.

Tick Removal

The faster the tick is removed, the less likely it is to pass a pathogen onto its host. 

If you do not feel comfortable removing the tick yourself, a physician can remove the tick for you. The CDC has a webpage detailing tick removal (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html)

To remove a large, hard tick:

  1. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Carefully pull the tick straight upwards, without twisting or crushing it. Crushing or squeezing a tick can cause it to regurgitate stomach contents into the bloodstream, which can contain tick borne diseases.
  3. Place the tick in a sealed container for identification
  4. Clean the wound thoroughly with alcohol. 

To remove a small, hard tick:

  1. Scrap the tick with a ruler or credit card edge being careful to to cut yourself
  2. Place the tick in a sealed container for identification
  3. Clean the wound thoroughly with alcohol

Keep watch of symptoms for 30 days following a tick bite. Symptoms include: rash, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, or swelling.

Getting a Tick Tested

To have a tick identified and tested:
USU will attempt to perform pathogen testing on the tick if the specimen quality allows.
*Expenses paid by UDOH (not including shipping).

Pick up a vial from the Summit County Health Department in Park City or place the tick in a small container, tightly sealed container with alcohol (70% ethanol preferred, or isopropyl alcohol)
Include a brief note with the following information:
Date of tick bite
Location where individual suspects they were bitten (GPS coordinate; City, County, Zip Code; Google map image)
Any additional information
Ship the specimen to:
Attention: Scott Bernhardt
5305 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84341-2851

Ticks need to have bitten their host in order to transmit disease. A tick crawling atop the skin is not a cause for concern of disease, but it may indicate the presence of other ticks.

Additionally, if a tick returns testing positive for a disease, that does not necessarily mean that you have contracted the disease. A tick’s disease screening should not be used as a means to begin antibiotic treatment or make medical decisions, due to turnaround time for results and possibility of false negatives.

The most important thing after a tick bite is to monitor for symptoms and alert your primary care physician of the bite. Letting your doctor know is important so that they can test for tick-borne illness should symptoms arise, or begin preventative (prophylactic) treatment.