Category Archives: Hiking Trails and Dog Walks

3 great dog walks on Cape Cod

Looking for a cool place to walk your dog on Cape Cod? Check out these 3 dog walks on Cape Cod to see unspoiled nature of the Cape at its best.

You’ll learn about:

  • an unspoiled beach walk on a remote sandy beach that includes two lighthouses in Provincetown
  • a wooded pond trail by three kettle ponds at Nickerson State Park
  • a trail showcasing all of the habitats typical to the shore around cape cod bay: upland forest, salt meadow, salt marsh, sand dune, and tidal mud flats
Continue reading 3 great dog walks on Cape Cod

Ticks on Cape Cod

Ticks are mean customers. Stay safe! Learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your dog from ticks on cape cod.

We’ve assembled the tick safety info below from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.


Table of Contents


Deer ticks are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease, but there are other diseases spread by other tick species so it's important to be aware and follow safety precautions.
Deer ticks are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease, but there are other diseases spread by other tick species so it’s important to be aware and follow safety precautions. Source: Mass.gov

Deer Ticks on Cape Cod

Lyme disease is carried by a tick commonly known as the deer tick (or black-legged tick). Deer ticks pass the bacteria to a human or animal as it feeds upon their blood.

Other types of ticks exist in Massachusetts and can pass other diseases, but it’s the deer tick and Lyme disease that you need to worry most about – especially if you have children or pets.

Deer tick season on Cape Cod

Deer ticks are active on Cape Cod year round β€” especially during years with mild winters.

How bad are ticks on cape cod? Take your dog on a walk in the woods and you’ll find out pretty quickly that many areas are completely covered with them. It’s not uncommon to pull a dozen or more ticks off of your dog after a walk, and many people will avoid narrow trails altogether.

Understanding how ticks feed and spread disease can help you protect your family and pets.

Ticks are found on Cape Cod year-round, including winter. This image shows where they like to hide out when there’s snow on the ground. Source: cdc.gov

Three-stage life cycle of deer ticks

Deer ticks have a three-stage life cycle. The adult tick is active in the late fall and early spring while the larvae and nymphs are active during the late spring, early summer, and fall.

  • Deer tick larvae: extremely small, similar in size to a period.
  • Deer tick nymphs: the size of a poppy seed and are difficult to see.
  • Adult deer tick: the size of a sesame seed and appears dark reddish brown.
The two year life cycle of a deer tick.
The two year life cycle of a deer tick. source: CDC.gov

How do deer ticks spread Lyme disease?

All stages of deer ticks can be carried by dogs and cats. But the usual hosts are woodland mammals such as the while-tailed deer and white-footed mouse.

Adult ticks feed and mate on large mammals in the fall and early spring. Female ticks drop off and lay eggs on the ground in the spring.

Adult deer ticks (both male and female) are about the size of a sesame seed on a hamburger bun
Adult deer ticks (both male and female) are about the size of a sesame seed on a hamburger bun. Source: cdc.gov

Small larvae hatch and feed upon white-footed mice, other small mammals, and birds. If the host mammal is infected with Lyme disease bacteria, then deer tick larvae will become infected. After they feed the larvae are inactive until early spring, when they molt into the nymph stage.

Nymphs that have picked up the bacteria in the larval stage are capable of transmitting the bacteria to humans or other hosts, including pets. This stage is most active in June, and causes more cases of Lyme disease than the adult tick.

Deer tick nymphs, shown here in the center of this image, are about the size of poppy seed.
Deer tick nymphs, shown here in the center of this image, are about the size of poppy seed. source: cdc.gov

In the late spring and summer nymphs seek a host for a blood meal. The host may be a small mammal or bird, but if you’re unlucky it may also be a dog, cat, or a human.

After feeding, nymphs molt into the adult stage. Adult ticks start the cycle again by feeding on a large mammal such as a deer, pet, or human.

Note that both infected nymph and adult ticks can transmit the Lyme disease bacteria. These ticks may also transmit Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis.


Commonly found ticks on Cape Cod include the deer (aka blacklegged) tick, the brown (aka dog) tick, and the lone star tick.
Commonly found ticks on Cape Cod include the deer (aka blacklegged) tick, the brown (aka dog) tick, and the lone star tick. Source: mass.gov

Types of ticks on Cape Cod

Wondering what kinds of ticks are found on Cape Cod? There are three ticks found most commonly on Cape Cod and the Islands: the deer tick, the American dog tick, and the Lone Star tick. American dog ticks and Lone Star ticks are larger than deer ticks β€” so they’re easier to see and remove.

The life stages of a deer tick include larvae, nymphs, and adults. Both nymphs and adults can spread Lyme disease.
The life stages of a deer tick include larvae, nymphs, and adults. Both nymphs and adults can spread Lyme disease. source: CDC.gov

Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)

Note the relatively smaller size and teardrop shape. The dorsal shield is blackish; the abdomen is reddish-brown. The male tick is uniformly dark brown.

Here’s how deer ticks look when they’re engorged after feeding:

This chart shows the size of an engorged deer tick after four days. Source: CDC.gov

American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

The dorsal shield of the commons dog tick is whitish; the abdomen is chestnut brown.

Female dog ticks become engorged or greatly swollen during a blood meal. The color of the abdomen changes to a uniform gray.

The American dog tick is very common on Cape Cod. This image shows the adult female dog tick. source: CDC.gov

The male tick is mottled gray.

The adult male dog tick shown here has a mottled gray appearance compared to the female dog tick, which has a whitish-colored dorsal shield
The adult male dog tick shown here has a mottled gray appearance compared to the female dog tick, which has a whitish-colored dorsal shield. Source: cdc.gov

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)

The Lone Start tick is a relatively recent arrival on Cape Cod. The female Lone Star tick is easily identified by her pronounced white dot or star in the center of her back.

This tick is not a passive opportunist like the more common dog and deer ticks. While those tick species wait until a host makes contact with them, the Lone Star tick will actively pursue a host.

Lone Star ticks are easy to identify due to the small dot on the middle of their backs. They don't carry Lyme disease, but they're very aggressive and can carry other pathogens dangerous to humans and dogs.
Lone Star ticks are easy to identify due to the small dot on the middle of female’s backs. They don’t carry Lyme disease, but they’re very aggressive and can carry other pathogens dangerous to humans and dogs. source: cdc.gov

How to identify a tick

Using the image below you should be able to identify deer ticks (aka black-footed ticks), dog ticks, or lone star ticks.

This image shows the sizes of the the deer tick, the dog tick, and the lone star tick. Source: CDC.gov

Not finding a match? Check out the Center for Disease Control’s tick ID page that describes all the different types of ticks in the U.S.


How to Protect Yourself from Ticks

Where ticks are found on Cape Cod

Deer ticks are most often found in woodland habitats such as hiking trails, conservation lands, and other forested recreational areas. In other words, the places everyone goes with their families and dogs when they’re outside on Cape Cod.

They move onto brush, vegetation or tall grasses (including beach grass!) as they seek a host. Ticks don’t jump or fly. They crawl onto and cling to humans and animals that pass by.

Adult deer ticks attached to a hiking boot.  Did you spot them both?
Adult deer ticks attached to a hiking boot. Did you spot them both? source cdc.gov

Tick safety tips

If you’re going to be walking in these types of areas, take the following precautions.

  • Wear light-colored clothing so it’s easier to see them on you
  • Wear long pants and tuck the pant legs into your socks – not just a good tick safety tip, but a pretty killer fashion tip as well
  • Stay in the middle of trails and avoid brushing against vegetation. This includes wooded trails, but also beach grass.
  • Check for ticks frequently on yourself, children, and dogs
  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET (N-N-diethyl-metatoluamide) on adults, including exposed skin and clothing. Use with caution on children.
  • If you use a contact insecticide such as permethrin, apply it only to outer clothing. Read and follow label directions carefully. It can also be applied to the outside of your tent if you’re camping on cape cod
  • Ask your veterinarian about Lyme vaccines. Use veterinarian-approved tick control products on pets that go outdoors
  • Keep brush and tall vegetation away from the house and try to eliminate tick-friendly environments in your yard
Applying permethrin to the outside of your tent is very important when camping on Cape Cod. source: CDC.gov

Where to check yourself and children for ticks

A careful tick check is the most effective way to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from Lyme disease.

After outdoor activities, brush off clothing thoroughly. Do a visual inspection. Pay attention to folded areas such as cuffs, belts and shirt collars. Ticks love to burrow in.

An engorged deer tick has just finished feeding and is filled with blood. source: cdc.gov

Do a complete body check on a daily basis. Check children and pets more frequently, and especially each time they’re done playing outside.

Inspect the hairline and scalp as well as difficult-to-see areas such as the back. Checking yourself and kids when you shower each day is a great idea, it’s much easier to spot them when clothes are removed. Don’t forget to check the clothes too, sometimes ticks are still crawling around there before they get to attach to your tasty flesh.

Where to check for ticks
Where to check for ticks. Source: CDC

Where to check dogs for ticks

Ticks may hitchhike indoors on pets or clothing and then fall off. Dogs should be checked for ticks on a regular basis, particularly around the eyes, ears and underbelly.

Tick removal for pets follows the same technique that is used on humans. Ask your vet to recommend a tick preventative product to kill any ticks who do bit your pet.

It’s important to check your dog or cat thoroughly for ticks after spending time outdoors on Cape Cod. This chart shows where the little buggers like to attach themselves to pets. Source: cdc.gov

Tick Spraying on Cape Cod

One of the best ways to protect your family and pets against ticks on Cape Cod is to spray your yard with pesticides.

But tick spraying alone won’t solve the problem. It’s best to try and eliminate areas where ticks may live prior to applying pesticide. This includes:

  • Remove leaf litter
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns
  • Place a three foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas
  • Mow your lawn frequently
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (to discourage rodents).
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees
  • Build fences to discourage unwelcome animals from entering your yard, and to keep your pets from entering tick habitats

What to do if a tick bites you

To remove a tick, grasp tick at the point of attachment with tweezers and pull upward with a slow and steady pressure. Image source: CDC website

How to remove ticks the right way

A tick’s mouthparts are barbed like a fish hook. Once inserted, a cement-like substance is released, making tick removal difficult. Proper and prompt removal of ticks includes the following steps:

This image shows the proper way to grab and remove ticks with tweezers
This image shows the proper way to grab and remove ticks with tweezers. Source: NY Dept. of Health
  • Grasp the tick at the point of attachment using fine tipped tweezers. Do not squeeze the body.
  • Pull straight out with slow and steady pressure. Avoid twisting the tick.
  • Apply an antiseptic to the bite area.
  • When removing ticks from pets try to avoid pulling out too much fur.
  • Do not apply petroleum jelly, nail polish remover, or a hot match to the tick. This will not make the tick back out.
To remove a tick, use tweezers to grasp it at the point of attachment and pull upwards.
To remove a tick, use tweezers to grasp it at the point of attachment and pull upwards. Source: cdc.gov

Want to learn more about how to remove ticks? Check out the CDC’s webpage on tick removal.

Also if you’ve been bitten check out their “Tick-bite: what to do” PDF.

A small circular rash is a tell-tale sign of Lyme disease. But be aware that many people with this disease don't develop a rash, so look for other symptoms as well.
A small circular rash is a tell-tale sign of Lyme disease. But be aware that many people with this disease don’t develop a rash, so look for other symptoms as well. source: cdc.gov

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Most people who get Lyme disease don’t even know they’ve been bitten by a tick. Deer ticks are tiny and they’re easy to overlook.

The symptoms of lime disease at the early stage include:

  • Headache
  • Chills and/or fever
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Skin rash (circular) that increases in size
A circular rash such as this may indicate you have Lyme disease. Even if you don't know you were bitten by a tick or have other symptoms you should see a doctor immediately.
A circular rash such as this may indicate you have Lyme disease. Even if you don’t know you were bitten by a tick or have other symptoms you should see a doctor immediately. Source: cdc.gov

Getting a round or circular rash is a tell-tale sign. But many people who have Lyme disease don’t develop a rash. If you think you may be infected don’t wait. See a doctor right away. Antibiotics can be prescribed to help treat it.

A bulls-eye rash that was diagnosed to be Lyme disease
A bulls-eye rash that was diagnosed to be Lyme disease. source: cdc.gov

Delaying treatment for Lyme disease will intensify symptoms. Major medical problems such as potentially serious heart, nervous system, and arthritic conditions can develop.

If you live or vacation on Cape Cod then you are at risk for Lyme disease. See a medical professional right away if you suspect you have it.

Learn more about Lyme disease on the Mass.gov website.

This dark rash was the result of Lyme disease.
This dark rash was the result of Lyme disease. Source: cdc.gov

Treatment fo Lyme disease

If you suspect that you have Lyme disease or were recently bitten by a deer tick then consult your physician. If your dog was bitten then consult your vet.

The symptoms of Lyme disease are easy to confuse with other illnesses so they’re often overlooked. Antibiotics are generally prescribed for treatment.

The bacteria can move very quickly from beneath the skin to deeper tissues in the body quickly (before the blood tests can detect evidence of illness). Because of this some doctors choose to treat preventatively before symptoms arise.

The Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria is a pathogenic organism is responsible for causing the illness Lyme disease.
The Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria is a pathogenic organism is responsible for causing the illness Lyme disease. Source: cdc.gov

Additional Resources on Ticks on Cape Cod

Our page contains tick safety information about ticks on Cape Cod that was compiled from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Town of Brewster.

Here are some links to their sites if you want to learn more about ticks:

Ticks are mean customers, be safe!

Use caution when going outdoors on Cape Cod all year long. These black-legged ticks (aka deers ticks) are mean customers! source: cdc.gov