When it comes to common pests in our home, we often think about ants, spiders, flies, silverfish, and even cockroaches. Here on the West Coast, we’ve also had our fair share of such creepy beasties such as scorpions or millipedes wandering in our backyards. However, ticks are something else entirely as they aren’t something we can often spot as quickly as these pests. There are ticks in California, and understand which types, which diseases they carry, and how you can protect yourself is all essential information.

Which Types of Tick Live in California?

Soft Ticks

There are two common types of tick common to California: soft ticks and hard ticks. Soft ticks are primarily found around deer and cattle, and even poultry in the case of the poultry tick (a small, brown, egg-shaped tick). They prefer warm-blooded animals and are not likely to be hopping around your backyard unless you have a ranch or farm with these types of animals. On some rare occasions, the spinose ear tick, most commonly found around horses and other livestock, will flock to humans or cats. In those cases, people in the Central Valley to the Southern part of California can remain aware of this species of soft tick.

Hard Ticks

There are six subtypes of hard ticks, and they do not all live exclusively in California. In California, you may find the winter tick, which can be found all across North America. It prefers to feed on horses and deer around the Central Coast and the Sierra foothill areas between autumn and early, although it may disperse itself across the entire state of California. The Western Black Legged tick is limited to smaller areas around the state, such as only moist areas of the Sierra foothills. However, this does not lessen the intensity of their bite, and hikers or campers should be wary when traveling around these ticks. More rarely found is the Rocky Mountain tick, as it has only been seen or caught in the eastern portion of the state. 

One of the most common ticks found in California is the Pacific Coast tick, and it is known as a triple host tick. This means that it feeds on rodents, especially among squirrels, cattle, horses, deer, and adult humans. While most other types of hard ticks live in scarce areas of the state, the only other type of hard tick you need to watch out for is the Brown Dog tick – and it is all in the name. This minuscule pest, also known as a kennel tick, is also a three-host tick, and it is most likely to bother those dogs who live in a kennel. Victims even include those dogs who sleep in a kennel at night or have a kennel in their home that they may rest in from time to time. The Brown Dog tick is found across the state of California.

What Threats Do Ticks Carry?

Ticks are more than just a disgusting pest that you want to keep away from your family or pets. More than a fly or a centipede that might merely “gross” you out, a tick can carry Lyme disease in California, and this disease can have serious consequences. It can be localized, or it can affect multiple or whole-body systems. Ticks carry a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, and while most ticks do not regularly bite humans, a few species of hard ticks do prefer to on occasion.


Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Humans:

  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Skin Rashes
  • Migratory Pain in Joints, Tendons, Muscles, or Bones
  • Severe Headache
  • Memory Loss
  • Rarely: Inflammation of the Eyes or Heart, Liver Damage

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Pets:

  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness

If you suspect your pet has one or more of these symptoms, take them to your veterinarian immediately. There may also be other clinical symptoms that come up due to Lyme disease.

How Can I Protect Myself From Ticks?

When it comes to tick control, you may be most concerned after learning about hard ticks as they are most commonly distributed around California – and most likely to want to feed on humans or pets at some point. For pets, you can speak to your vet about getting proper flea and tick medication, such as a collar or a monthly treatment, to keep these critters away. Be aware of your surroundings, wear appropriate clothes when you are out in areas where there are commonly ticks, and check for ticks when you leave those areas. Ticks crawl upward, to wear long pants that are tucked into your socks and boots, and long-sleeved shirts that tucked into your pants – leave no skin exposed for those ticks to get into. You can also choose an effective flea and tick repellent as an extra precaution.

After you come home from hiking or camping, check for ticks. Ticks can attach anywhere on the body, including clothing, so you can never be too careful. If you’ve taken your pets along, inspect them just as carefully – if not more carefully. If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Take all items of clothing to be washed and heated to make sure any leftover traveling ticks cannot sneak their way into your home. Especially if you’ve been to a place known for having the worst of these hard ticks, continue to check for ticks just in case one or two may have gotten through. You can never be too careful.

In the case that you have a tick infestation, do not attempt to control the situation. Call a pest control professional immediately. Because of the dangers of Lyme disease, you want to contact an expert with the knowledge and skill to handle these critters right away without hesitation.