Saturday, June 17, 2006

How to deal with ticks on the Deschutes River

Overcoming a modicum of
adversity, Sadie the
Dalmatian recently proved
that even an old dog may
glean new ticks.
On our recent tarry along
the Deschutes River, Sadie
caught and I released about
120 ticks.
I can't actually prove that
number since I lost count at 52 or 55.
That came halfway through
the second-of-three days on
the river.
And Sadie landed even
more ticks that afternoon,
although I have no documen
tation to prove it.
I didn't bother with
measurements, either. Yet, a
few females appeared to have
trophy-sized maws.
Without documentation,
however, my observations
may lack authority.
Anyway, going into this
trip, I didn't expect Sadie to
catch any ticks, let alone to
set a record.
Let's face it, as a gimpy
14-year-old, Sadie lacks the
same tick-rummaging
stamina that she once
boasted.
She now prefers padding
along in my wake to crashing
headlong into tick thickets of
tall weeds and overhanging
limbs.
In addition, my wife
Darlene apparently grew tired
of finding an occasional
creepy blood-sucker on a pil
low or a wall.
She encouraged me to DO
SOMETHING! or else.
So, I applied Frontline Flea
and Tick Control to Sadie's
skin between her head and
shoulders.
On several subsequent trips
to Bennington Lake, one of
our favorite tick-hunting
grounds, she came home with
no ticks at all.
We figured the Frontline
worked. Looking back,
though, another factor must
be considered.
We have a system of mown
paths around Bennington that
you may trot along without
actually brushing against a
tick-bearing weed or limb.
That's a key to NOT catching
ticks, by the way: avoid them.
You can't really do that,
however, in the tall reed ca
nary grass on the alder- and
hackberry-lined banks of the
Deschutes River.
Besides, even Frontline
doesn't keep ticks from falling
onto Sadie. It does, however,
encourage them to eschew
drilling into her.
So, they crawl off onto
sleeping bags ... and me.
Since I wore waders and a
rain jacket much of the time
on the Deschutes, I caught an
embarrassingly low number
of ticks: only eight.
They may seem plenty to
folks who prefer NOT to catch
ticks, as apparently a few do.
That's easy enough. Ticks
don't jump or fly, but they do
``quest,'' sensing a carbon-
based critter from 20 feet
away and waiting. So, stay on
wide paths, away from weeds
or limbs where ticks may
cling to your clothes or drop
on you as you pass.
If you wear waders or slip
pery clothes, they may slip
off. Or, if you wear light-
colored clothes, you may see
them and toss them away.
So, tick-shy people should:
1) stay on wide paths; 2) wear
long pants with the legs
tucked into socks; 3) wear
long-sleeves and button them;
4) button the shirt collar; and
5) wear a hat.
After visiting tick country,
check clothes, body and hair
(with a fine-tooth comb).
Check kids carefully.
I check Sadie repeatedly.
Yet, she often hides ticks for
hours.
After that long day of pick
ing ticks from her on the
Deschutes, we crawled into
the tent.
While reading with my LED
headlamp, I saw a tick on my
sleeping bag. Then another
on the tent wall. Then another
on Sadie's bag. Shivver.
I tossed them outside and
felt crawly all night.
Despite catching so many
ticks, Sadie hasn't had one
become fully engorged. Some
have became attached before
I found them.
And I've only found one
tick attached to me, on top of
my noggin, that I remember.
These are, by the way, the
Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
or Dog Tick species. If they
attach and become engorged,
they may cause Rocky Moun
tain fever.
Along with fever, within
three to 12 days, you may
have severe headaches,
tiredness, muscle pain, chills,
nausea, and a rash.
The key, of course, is to
discover a tick before it sticks
to you. Then you pick it off
and release it.
Effective (?) methods of RELEASING
ticks include bonfires,
blow torches, dynamite,
sledge hammers, microwave
ovens and cuisinarts.
Anyway, you may have 72
hours to find a tick and feed it
to a blowtorch before it drills
you. When it's engorged, it
begins to infect you.
If, HOWEVER, you awaken
one morning, scratch your
arm pit and find what re
sembles a Thompson seedless
grape, don't grab a torch.
It's too late (or too early).
You should unattach it. Then
torch it.
I recently heard Garrison
Keillor say on the radio that
flame applied to the back of a
stuck tick makes it back out.
Not true. Ticks attach with
a glue-like substance and
can't back out even if their
butts ARE burning.
Use flame and you'll end up
with a third-degree burn.
If you're squeamish, you
may want a physician to re
move an attached tick.
I pull mine and Sadie's.
Carefully.
Pull an engorged tick with
your fingers, and you squeeze
infected blood from the tick
back into your veins.
Yukkkk!
So, you need to use tweez
ers or a special tool. Grip the
tick head as close to the skin
as possible and lift straight
back so as not to pull the head
off in the skin.
Wash thoroughly with al
cohol.
Mainly, though, if you pay
attention and catch ticks
early, you won't have to deal
with ``engorged.''
So, a few people hate ticks.
Yet, the noble dog tick fits
into nature's scheme: to pro
vide food for birds.
And consider ticks' econ
omic value. Tick hunters
spend a fortune on gear and
outfitters. And tick haters
spend a fortune on repellents.
All that, and Sadie's
pleasure in catching ticks, in
spires me to apply a catch-
and-release approach that
protects the resource.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thief Valley Reservoir

Sadie the Dalmatian
straggled along the muddy
two-track road above the dam
at the nearly iced-over Thief
Valley Reservoir.
She paused to sniff bush
after bush.
I shuffled on, deep in
thought about the eagles, elk
and antelope I'd photo
graphed earlier. I passed a
sage-dotted and shaded cut
between two hills on my right.
I paid the dark cleft little
attention. Yet, it gave me an
uneasy feeling. Hair on my
neck twitched.
I stopped, turned slowly
and studied the shadows.
Yes! Thirty-three yards
away, peering around a bush!
A coyote sat on its
haunches and watched us. Or
it watched Sadie.
Did it drool? Humm.
Slowly, I lifted the camera.
Drat! The wily critter faded
away. Instantly. Gone.
Darn, I thought. A close
shot of a coyote would have
capped a great day of wildlife
photography.
Not that I didn't have some
good shots already. And, I
crossed my fingers, the scenic
shots should be good, too.
I'd started out to find
eagles, which gather in
Northeast Oregon in the win
ter. They may reach a peak of
about 250 in February and
March.
Of course Northeast Ore
gon covers a space somewhat
larger than a postage stamp.
But people had seen eagles in
Union County. Apparently.
And I once saw three ante
lope beside the road between
Union and Powder River. In
addition, the Oregon Depart
ment of Fish and Wildlife
feeds elk in the winter a few
miles out of Powder River.
So, we had a plan. My wife
Darlene made a lunch for us,
and we left home at 7:28 a.m.
I unlimbered the
70-300-millimeter lens at
Ladd Marsh, appropriately
with a shot of a marsh hawk
(northern harrier) in flight. I
also photographed the old ho
tel (some say it's haunted) at
the hot springs. The wrecked
building is being refurbished.
Next, about 100 antelope
lazed in the sunlight 200
yards from the road about six
miles from North Powder.
Then I took the road from
North Powder toward An
thony Lakes and detoured at a
sign indicating the Elkhorn
Wildlife Viewing area.
It was a Monday, and we
had the place to ourselves.
Well, not counting the 100 elk
that dozed in the sunlight.
Snow covered the ground,
and I measured the altitude at
3,657 feet.
From there we took the An
thony Lakes Highway toward
Haines. Several hawks sat on
fences, in trees or sailed along
looking for mice.
Then darting crows caught
my eye. Three crows flew
after an eagle with its white
head and tail bright in the
sunlight.
``Look, Sadie, an eagle!''
I braked and counted two
eagles on fence posts with
sheep in the foreground, three
in a tree near a farm and two
in a tree near the road.
``That's seven eagles!''
The two ahead of me were
juveniles (or, perhaps, golden
eagles). It takes about four
years for a bald eagle to de
velop a white head.
I parked, let Sadie out, and
we stood by the fence. I took a
photos of eagles with the
70-300-millimeter-zoom lens.
I missed one that flew just 20
yards over us.
Sadie's gaze never left the
sheep. Oh. well.
Finally, looking for more
eagles, we drove on toward
Baker City. I didn't see any
and looped back through
Haines and back to where I'd
seen the eagles.
By golly, a mature one sat
in the tree near the road. I
stopped and photographed it
through the window.
It ignored me. Eagles ap
parently spend most of their
time sitting and watching.
Some people say they're rest
ing. I think they're selecting
from the menu or just ponder
ing the nature of things while
catching some rays.
On the way home, a few
miles out of North Powder, I
took the road to Thief Valley
Reservoir, to see if eagles
were hanging out there.
They weren't. Ice covered
the water. Sadie and I hiked
the mile to the dam, and as we
started back, I saw the coyote.
Finally, at 4:02 p.m., I fed
Sadie and unwrapped my
sandwich. I figured we could
be home for dinner by 6:07.
Unless we spotted more
eagles, elk, antelope or
coyotes. Or a colorful sunset