BARRIE, ONT. -- Trail walks and bike rides are more popular than ever as the pandemic drags on and forces the closure of indoor amenities.

So, if you're new to the great outdoors, here are some things you need to know about tick season.

According to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), ticks have been found in forests, tall grasses, bushes and wet areas with lots of leaf litter but can be carried by animals and dropped pretty much anywhere.

They are most active in spring and summer but can be found anytime the temperatures reach above the freezing mark.

Tick bites are preventable, and not all ticks carry diseases.

When heading outdoors, the LSRCA recommends wearing light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks. The light-coloured clothing makes spotting a tick easier. Stay on marked trails and use DEET or icaridin bug spray. Brush off clothing before going into a vehicle or house.

After returning home, experts advise doing a thorough tick check by running your hands over your skin for anything that may be embedded or itchy. Also, remember to check your pets for ticks.

Black-legged ticks, also known as Ixodes scapularis or deer ticks, have been reported in Simcoe Muskoka and can potentially carry Lyme disease.

In 2019, the health unit confirmed 14 cases of Lyme disease but said it's challenging to narrow down where the individuals were infected because it can take anywhere from three days to one month for symptoms to show after being bitten.

Lyme disease can cause fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and a skin rash. It is treatable, but it can cause heart and nervous system symptoms if not treated in the early stages.

A tick can be removed carefully with tweezers by pulling it straight out, gently but firmly avoiding squeezing it. Clean the area with soap and water and rubbing alcohol.

Once removed, identify the type of tick online or take it to a public health worker in a screw-top bottle or sealed plastic bag.

The Simcoe Muskoka health unit monitors tick populations by actively looking for ticks. It no longer accepts ticks for submissions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.