Confusion reigned on social media when a post appeared of a sign declaring Tuggeranong dog parks had been closed due to an outbreak of paralysis ticks.
Turns out it was all a hoax.
Complete with an official logo and the same font used in other ACT Government releases, the sign claimed the Greenway, Lake Tuggeranong and Mortimer Lewis Drive dog parks had been closed for “spraying”.
“Due to recent heavy rain there has been an outbreak of parasite, Ixodes holocyclus (Paralysis Tick) within the Tuggeranong Catchment Area,” it read.
“Under the autority [sic] of the Public Health Act 1997 the park will remain closed until further notice.”
A padlock was also placed on a gate.
City Services Minister Chris Steel said government officers investigated the claims and determined the sign was a hoax.
“Given it created a public nuisance, we reported the matter to ACT Policing on Tuesday [16 August] for their information,” he said.
Mr Steel said paralysis ticks were “unlikely” to survive a Canberra winter, and such ticks in dogs and cats that have not left Canberra were “rare”.
“[Paralysis ticks] favour warm and humid conditions … The paralysis tick’s preferred habitat is woodlands and grasslands which are visited by native animals,” he said.
“We would not spray a dog park as it could impact other species such as bees. Our main control method would be keeping the grass mown and providing warning signage for dog owners.”
Canberrans took to social media to express their confusion, first over the announcement and then asking why someone would go to the effort.
“What on earth do these gumbies get out of this … seeing dogs and their owners turn up and look disappointed!?!” one person wrote.
“Fatal flaw with this hoax is that ticks don’t live up here and can’t survive our winter,” wrote another.
According to the Animal Emergency Service, the paralysis tick season generally begins in August and lasts until around November.
However, tick season could start earlier if winter was milder than usual.
An ACT Policing spokesperson said the government had informed them of the incident.
“However, it is not currently the subject of a formal investigation,” they said.
“If anyone has any information about this matter, please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”
Pet owners were reminded if they took their dogs or cats to areas where paralysis ticks could be present, such as the South Coast, to check for ticks daily and to seek veterinary advice if one was found on their pet.