It is a pleasure to be outside enjoying nature especially at this time of the year. There are a couple things – one very large and one very small – for which I encourage you to keep an eye out.

The NS Department of Natural Resources is always looking for potential Boston Christmas trees that could be used in future years to demonstrate to Boston our appreciation for their valuable support provided to our capital city in their worst hour of need. In December of 1917 the infamous explosion in Halifax Harbour flattened a large part of the city and killed and injured thousands of people.

Soon the 2017 Boston tree selection will be announced and many special events will be arranged for the public to enjoy, especially those that live near the tree and will be present with local school children for the cutting ceremony.

The tree for Boston is a special tree indeed. To find a suitable candidate is not easy to do. The tree can be a fir or spruce and should be more than 50 feet (15m) in height. It should be healthy green with a dense crown and good conical shape from all directions.

DNR is inviting the public to submit locations of possible trees for Boston. When you are out and about, please keep an eye out for that “perfect big Christmas tree”. Rarely do these trees come from woodland settings. They usually are found growing on their own in open settings such as fields, people’s yards, cottage properties, and recreation properties such as golf courses. In order to grow long healthy branches to the ground, the tree must be growing in an open environment unencumbered by neighbouring trees that compete for light, water and nutrients.

If you see, or hear of, a possible candidate Boston tree, please contact me or your nearest DNR office.

This summer there was more talk than ever about ticks in Nova Scotia. It seems that the range and frequency of ticks being found throughout Nova Scotia continues to increase each year. In case you are not aware, one should assume that ticks are now living in significant numbers throughout Nova Scotia. The possibility of ticks biting you should be taken seriously. For those of us that frequent the outdoors in the late spring, it’s not unusual to arrive home with many ticks attached and looking for a blood meal. The ticks can be found just about anywhere there is vegetation, but prefer high grass and shrubs in damp conditions where they can easily attach themselves to a warm blooded body moving through the area. So, it’s not necessarily wooded areas where you will find ticks. They are more often found in fields of tall grass, shrubs, regenerating grounds, recreation properties such as golf courses, and around the edges of properties.

Although there are more than a dozen possible ticks that could be found in Nova Scotia, the main two types are dog (otherwise known as wood) ticks, and black-legged (otherwise known as deer) ticks. Although wood ticks can cause infections from their bites, the real villain to be aware of is the deer tick. It is the deer tick that can carry Lyme disease (I have heard of estimates that up to 20% of a given area’s deer tick population could be carrying Lyme disease). Lyme disease must be taken very seriously. Besides the usual “target rash” that usually appears after a deer tick bite carrying Lyme disease, it can cause devastating life altering illnesses. I know of people who have acquired Lyme disease who became so ill that they had to quit their job and suffer every day from various ailments such as failing organs.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. A tick carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can only transmit it after filling itself with blood, which takes at least 36 hours. This is important to keep in mind, especially when dealing with children so that they don’t panic. There is lots of time to take the tick off your person before it would try to bite.

Blacklegged ticks are smaller than dog ticks. They have no white markings on the large part of their body. Dog ticks usually have white markings or silver-coloured spots. Despite their name, blacklegged ticks do not always have black legs. Blacklegged ticks in the nymph stage and adult female blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Compared to the adult blacklegged ticks, the nymphal tick is very small (1 to 3 mm).

Ticks are most common and active in the spring (May-June), followed by the fall. They are carried by not only deer, but any warm-blooded animal, including birds, on which they can hitch a ride and get a blood meal.

There are several ways to prevent or reduce contact with ticks when in areas with long grass, shrubs or woods, including:

· Apply insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin to exposed skin and clothes. Follow directions on the package carefully.

· Wear light colored, long sleeved shirts and pants, closed shoes, and tuck pant legs into socks.

· Walk on well-traveled paths, avoiding high grass and vegetation.

· Check yourself, children, and pets after walking in grassy or wooded areas. Check clothing and inspect skin including in and around ears, arm pits, inside belly button, groin, around the waist, and especially in hair and scalp area. When possible, take a bath or shower within two hours of coming indoors. This makes it easier to find ticks and washes away loose ones.

· Remove ticks as soon as they are found. Carefully grasp ticks with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick straight out. Clean and disinfect the area where the tick was attached to the skin.

· Keep lawns mowed short.

· Put playground equipment in sunny, dry places, away from wooded areas, yard edges, and trees.

Now that we can assume that we may come in contact with ticks when outside from spring to autumn, it is essential that individuals, including parents of small kids, establish a routine of checking for ticks on a daily basis.

We live in tick country.

Don Cameron, RPF

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Patrick Healey
Pat has grown up in East Hants, having called Milford, and now Enfield home. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2001, and has spent time at newspapers in NL and Alberton and Summerside, PEI before becoming a reporter/photographer at The Weekly Press/The Laker in October 2008. He has a rescue kitty named Asha that is much loved—and spoiled. Pat is also our "social engagement guru." Check him out on twitter!