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Owen County almanac

An exploration of the great outdoors


BY JOSH RODAMER


In 1949, “A Sand County Almanac” was first published post-humorously for its author, Aldo Leopold. That work, now combined with “Essays on Conservation from Round River,” is a classic nature and conservation text that walks readers through the natural idiosyncrasies of each month at the writer’s Wisconsin farm. An Owen County Almanac, likewise, will touch on the seasonal outdoor pursuits and happenings in Owen County. Additionally, you will find a summary of recent Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings, which affect said pursuits.


Spring


The return of spring across the commonwealth brings a variety of outdoor adventure options for several types of enthusiasts. The familiar mating display of the American Woodcock ushers in hopeful birders wishing to catch a glimpse of their favorite warbler species. Smaller impoundments and farm ponds begin to heat up with largemouth bass as they progress through their spawning. Elmer Davis Lake provides an excellent opportunity for these anglers to cast their way into the spring and summer fishing seasons. Hunters strain their ears as the sun wraps its rays faintly over the ridgetops, hoping for those first gobbling turkeys to betray their roost. The keen eye will also spot the emergence of Purple Cress, one of the first wildflowers to show themselves.

In all cases the outdoor enthusiast is met with a less desired spring return, that of the tick. From pets to pantlegs, these parasites begin their annual explosion of activity. Although ticks are active at all times of the year, certain varieties will become more active in spring. Adults and nymphs of the Lone Star Tick and American Dog Tick become active in March and maintain their activity through September. Adult Blacklegged Ticks, commonly called the deer tick, have peak activity between October and June with their nymphs active between May and August. The Winter, Asian Longhorn, Gulf Coast and Brown Dog Ticks round out the species you may encounter in the commonwealth.

Ticks are disease vectors, meaning they can transmit a variety of bacteria, virus, and protozoa. It is important to note that not all ticks can transmit the same diseases, and not all bites result in disease transmission. For example, the Lone Star Tick is unable to carry Lyme Disease and therefore lacks the ability to pass that disease to a host. The Blacklegged Tick can, however, carry Lyme Disease but will need to be attached to a host for about 36 hours before transmission occurs.

A close family member contracted Lyme Disease this past year, but never noticed the tick. This was likely due to the fact ticks will release once full, usually after a few days, but up to two weeks. Additionally, tick saliva contains anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant molecules that aid in keeping the host blissfully unaware of their activity.

The first symptom our family member experienced was a stinging itch on their side, followed by high fevers and fatigue. They later developed the stereotypical bullseye rash. Originally believing the incident to be a spider bite, a misdiagnosis at the doctor led to two weeks of antibiotics that yielded a smaller yet still present rash. Forty-eight hours after the first round of antibiotics were completed, symptoms returned with another rash on their ribcage and a swollen face. A trip to the dermatologist resulted in a correct diagnosis, confirmational tests and 30 days of antibiotic treatment. In this case the symptoms abated after second-round antibiotics and there have been no further issues. Some will also experience continued symptoms by acquiring Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).

The Lone Star Tick has gained more concern in recent years with the increase of Alpha-gal Syndrome. Although it has not been completey ruled out that other ticks could cause the syndrome, up to 20% of people who have been tested where Lone Star Ticks are common have the antibody that causes Alpha-gal. Alpha-gal Syndrome is referred to as the red meat allergy or mammalian meat allergy. It is an immune response to the Alpha-gal sugar molecule found in most mammals and products made from mammals. Tick saliva contains the molecule that the body may see as an intruder and issue an abnormal immune response called an allergic reaction. There are a variety of symptoms associated with such reactions with a spectrum of severity including itching, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The syndrome can become quite severe when an individual’s immune response grows to the level of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction and a medical emergency marked by a drop in blood pressure requiring medical treatment.

If you are so unfortunate to develop Alpha-gal Syndrome, there is no treatment or cure. The person must avoid meat, including pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, goat, bison, and venison. Meat products, such as gelatins and cow milk, as well as some personal care products, should be avoided to prevent an allergic reaction. All hope is not lost, as recovery is possible over time. If the individual can avoid additional tick bites and products that aggravate their allergy, they may see it resolve over months or years. Another Lone Star Tick concern is STARI. Not to be confused with my children’s lemon-lime soft drink of choice at their favorite Owenton pizzeria, STARI is a southern tick-associated rash illness. It can mimic Lyme disease; however, it is not caused by the same bacterium that causes Lyme and usually resolves after treatment with oral antibiotics.

Lone Star and American Dog Ticks can also transmit tularemia and spotted fever. Tularemia is a rare bacterial disease with mild to life-threatening symptoms. Spotted fever, sometimes called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, can also be mild to life-threatening and requires prompt treatment with the correct antibiotic.

As is true in so many parts of our lives, prevention is the best medicine to avoid tick bites. Experts recommend treating clothes, shoes, and gear with 0.5% permethrin, a personal favorite of mine. Permethrin is applied to clothes, not to the skin, and allowed to dry. It will maintain its effectiveness through several washings. The use of EPA-recommended insect repellants is another tool in the prevention box. Try using products that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. I typically apply a product if I expect to travel through the woods or tall grasses and weeds. Last but certainly not least is to inspect yourself and your pets. Whether it is my children or myself, I apply the gaze of a vain Disney villain and search for ticks to remove. One of our family’s worst tick experiences involved my children becoming covered in tiny seed ticks while working on a secluded property in Pendleton County. We stripped their clothes, rushed them home for baths, and then spent the next hour picking tiny ticks off their bodies with tweezers.

Although that was a terrible experience, it has not kept us from the outdoors, and I hope the aforementioned information doesn’t discourage you from an outdoor pursuit. Enjoy the woods and waters of Owen County!


F&W Commission Corner


At the time of this writing, the December meeting of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission has recently passed. Normal, quarterly meetings have three parts; action items, discussion items, and new business. Items are introduced as new business, moved to discussion items at the next meeting, and then presented as action items that will be voted upon unless the members vote to stop the item’s progression. These votes typically result in changes to regulations that affect our outdoor pursuits. Notable action items at the December meeting included a prohibition on wild pig hunting, recommendations for legislative changes involving commercial guide licensure authority, creating new fundraising permits, adding provisions for special hunting regulations on select WMAs, elk hunting season and permit recommendations, updating deer quota hunt recommendations, creating new regulations on wildlife disease reporting, modifying commercial trout line regulations, modifying water bodies open to commercial fishing, and eliminating minimum size limits for channel catfish in several bodies of water. All these action items require approval by the legislature. At the time of this writing, the March meeting has yet to occur, but sportsmen and women should be aware of Commission discussions on drone use and cellular trail cameras that have or will happen at the March 1 Commission meeting. Specifically, the Commission is discussing prohibitions on cellular trail cameras and drone use on WMAs. If these items concern you, contact your commissioner. Owen County sits in the Fifth Commission District, and Josh Lillard is our commissioner. He has also been elected Chair of the Fish and Wildlife Commission. You can reach him via email at FW.CommissionDistrict5@ky.gov or by phone at (859) 750-3142.


About the author: Josh Rodamer is an Owen County transplant, growing up in northern Boone County along the banks of the Ohio River. He is the previous 5th District Director for the Kentucky Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and enjoys hunting, fishing, and wandering through the woods, waters, and wild places our country has to offer. His greatest pursuit alongside his wife and children is Jesus Christ, which has provided him with all other opportunities. You can reach him at joshua.rodamer@icloud.com

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