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Millions of people enjoy hanging out at California beaches in the warmer months. So do ticks carrying Lyme disease.

That’s one finding from four years of field work in California’s San Francisco Bay Area and nearby wine country involving the collection of some 3,000 Western black-legged ticks.

The abundance of the blood-sucking arachnids surprised some tick biologists and experts, in part because it is unclear what animals may be spreading them around.

How these ticks survive, feed and breed in coastal areas remains somewhat of a mystery, said Dan Salkeld, an ecologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, who led the study. The ticks’ favorite mammalian host, the western gray squirrel, does not frequent seaside grass-scapes.

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