New England residents are already encountering ticks thanks to a warm winter that's going to extend the season for the blood-sucking arachnids.

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Chuck Lubelczyk, a field biologist with Maine Medical Center, says the tick season is underway a month earlier than normal.

Extreme cold temperatures won't necessarily kill ticks but can delay their appearance in large numbers. But the winter that just ended was the hottest winter in the U.S. In New England, the temperature from December through February was the warmest on record in Caribou, Maine; Concord, New Hampshire; and Providence, Rhode Island.

The presence of ticks means more disease in pets and humans. Deer ticks are responsible for Lyme disease but ticks carry other diseases as well.