The Western Blacklegged Tick----Saved From The Brink!
Going strong again, now, Thanks to a massive effort
by scientists and Citizens' groups.
Fragile baby in peril
Just a few years ago, things looked bleak for the once-common
Western Blacklegged Tick.
As a consequence of varying forms of pollution in the environment, climate-change, and out-of-control development, the species had been diminishing for many years, until specimens were becoming disturbingly hard to find.
A young Ixodes struggles to feed and survive, in a hostile world.
Scientists noticed this crisis as more and more hunters, outdoorsmen, hikers, campers and backpackers began lodging concern that this unique species, found only in the far western US, was no longer being sighted at all in many areas where it was once unbiquitous.
Hunter/fisherman Leroy Bludebank testifies:
"I've been hiking, fishing and hunting in these forests [in the Sierra Nevada] since I was a kid. Back then, these little guys were all over the place. But things reached a point where I hadn't seen one in years. I figured it must be the end of an era. How sad is that?"
"So many things we grew up with out in nature are being lost forever.
What can we do?"
Leroy Bludebank, outdoorsman
But soon, an alliance of outdoors enthusiasts, environmental groups
and scientists began to focus on the problem.
It started with bake sales, school assemblies, local town meetings, and led to several major conferences of scientists at different western Universities. Finally, a program
for restoration of the species was established.
University Scientists worked countless hours without pay
to study the best solutions to the crisis.
Entymologists and biochemists worked together for a clearer understanding
of the nutrient problems that have been identified
as a key factor in the near-disappearance of this species.
Local Sierra Nevada community and environmental groups volunteered their time to provide thousands of hours of hard work out in the field to replenish
the population of the tiny, threatened creatures.
The Sierra Tick-Tockers----Just one of the many citizens groups that coalesced
in order to solve the problem
Volunteers were happy to sacrifice just a few drops of blood to help restore the vibrancy of the species. It was discovered that the critters re-gained health and strength better on the children's blood than the adults. Entire families contributed their fluids, but it was the kids who helped the most, after being informed the blood needed would be little more than most typical blood samples taken in an average physical exam.
The kids were happy to help out, and their contributions were considerable
The Tick-Tockers collect weak specimens for conditioning in the lab.
Meanwhile, the few relatively strong individuals they can find,
they nourish with their own bodily fluids
to strengthen the tiny Arachnids.
The little creatures are then left in the forest
to fend for themselves.
After years of consolidated effort by many determined groups, The Western Blacklegged Tick is gaining in numbers again, and now seems out of danger of extinction.
If you ever have the pleasure to hike in the Sierra Nevada area of California or western Nevada, you just might be lucky enough to see a Western Blacklegged Tick, when you discover one or more of the little wanderers has decided to accompany you on your hike,
fishing trip or hunting day.
If you do, thank the citizens and scientist-volunteers who made it possible.
In a world with many environmental challenges and problems,
it is reassuring to know
that there are some very real success stories out there.