Love the outdoors but hate ticks? Well, a new study has unfortunate news for you: Even the beach is not safe, at least in the northwestern part of California where it was carried out. Researchers found that adult black-legged ticks carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, were just as likely to be found in the coastal grasses and shrubs leading to the shoreline as they were in woodland areas, NBC News reports. Grey squirrels are the main source of Lyme disease in California, says the lead author of the study, and since they're not found at the beach, he also didn't expect to find infected ticks at the beach. Alas, he did: "We found ticks pretty much wherever we looked," he tells the Washington Post.
Specifically: 4.1% of adult ticks found in coastal scrub were infected with the bacterium, compared to 3.9% in woodland habitats. If not by squirrels, it's not clear how they're being infected, but the lead author hypothesized voles or rabbits could be the source. Coastal grasslands and shrubs on the East Coast are similarly known to harbor black-legged ticks. To protect against them, experts recommend wearing light-colored clothing, staying on trails or sand, showering and putting clothes in the dryer once you get home, and checking your body multiple times, up to as many as three days later. If you do find a tick, save it after removing it so you can identify it and what diseases it might carry. (Read more ticks stories.)