Five ticks not native to Alaska have been found on dogs and humans in our northernmost state, and at least one of them—the American dog tick—appears to be solidly "established" in the Last Frontier, Randy Zarnke, an ex-wildlife veterinarian with the state's Department of Fish and Game, tells the Alaska Dispatch News. "That is not a good thing," he says of the fact that some of the ticks don't seem to have come from out-of-state dogs or Alaska canines that may have traveled to other locations. "[The American dog tick] attaches to humans and can spread diseases that we haven't had to worry about up until now." This news emerges out of a study published this month in the Journal of Medical Entomology, which lists brown dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, Lone Star ticks, and deer ticks as the other four species concerning scientists in their apparent new frigid home.
From 2010 to 2016, researchers collected ticks sent in from vets, biologists, and residents—gathered from the bodies of humans and their four-legged friends, as well as at least one found just crawling around—from nine Alaskan communities, including Anchorage and Juneau. The fact that non-resident ticks have popped up among the samples is concerning in a state whose experts and citizens often brag, "We don't have ticks in Alaska," co-author Kimberlee Beckmen said in a June 2012 feature on the Fish and Game Department's website. This misinformation can lead to improper diagnosis of such tick-borne diseases as Rocky Mountain spotted fever (carried by the American dog tick), a serious illness that can cause paralysis and even death in dogs and humans. As for whether these migrating ticks can ultimately endure Alaska's cold temps: "Probably," says lead study author Lance Durden. "At least the milder coastal regions." (The Lone Star tick could be linked to red-meat allergies.)