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Leeches are native residents of our local lakes. They are a common food for fish and waterfowl and an important part of the natural food web in our local area.
While certainly unpleasant, leeches in our region are not known to transmit human diseases, and are generally not a public health concern. Be careful removing leeches from the skin. If their mouth-parts are left in the skin, they may cause irritation or infection.
Leeches are typically found in shallow, protected water, among aquatic plants, or under stones, logs, and other debris. Shallow areas along the edge of the lakes and ponds are an ideal habitat.
Summertime means more leeches. Leeches prefer shallow, protected areas of lakes. Swimming in deeper waters and in areas free of plants and debris will reduce the likelihood of a leech finding you.
Be sure to clean, disinfect, and bandage leech bites to prevent infection as you would any other cut. A leech bite may ooze for several hours after the leech is removed. This is caused by compounds present in leech saliva that prevent blood from clotting. There may also be irritation or itching after a bite, similar to the allergic reaction some people have to mosquito bites. If the wound doesn’t heal properly, contact your healthcare provider.
There is no practical way to control leeches in natural waters. Chemical control measures that would reduce leech populations will also harm other beneficial aquatic animals including fish. Because leeches like to conceal themselves under sticks, stones, and other debris, swimming in areas free of such material is the best way to help reduce human/leech encounters.