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Deer COVID? IDNR plans to test up to a thousand deer this winter

Friday, Nov 5, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Drudge posted this Fox New York story on his site

When researchers in Iowa first began testing deer for COVID-19 in April of 2020, they didn’t find any signs of the virus for months. That changed in the fall when the first positives popped up in September and October.

Then in a seven-week period from just before Thanksgiving until January 10, 82.5% of the deer tested positive, signs that it was spreading rapidly among white-tailed deer.

The research by Penn State and the Iowa DNR is still in peer review, but they write it’s the first to show evidence of widespread dissemination of COVID-19 in wildlife and that it shows that deer have the potential to be a “major reservoir host” for the virus.

The threat for deer hunters is minimal. There is no evidence, yet, that COVID-19 can transmit from deer to humans. Also if deer meat is properly prepared and cooked, there’s no risk consuming venison.

But as we work through vaccinations to stop the spread in humans, the concerns and questions are the scientific what ifs — the potential that COVID survives in the wild and continues to mutate. If so, new strains, potentially more resistant to vaccines, could develop that could find a way to jump back to humans again.

* I asked Jordan Abudayyeh at the governor’s office if IDNR had done any deer studies. She pointed me to this from the USDA

[The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)] ccollected a total of 481 samples between January 2020 and March 2021 from Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. We detected SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in 33 percent of those samples. The results varied by State (Illinois = 7 percent of 101 samples contained antibodies; Michigan = 67 percent of 113 samples; New York = 19 percent of 68 samples; and Pennsylvania = 31 percent of 199 samples). Although the results indicate that certain white-tailed deer populations in these States were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, they should not be extrapolated to represent the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the deer populations as a whole. […]

Did the deer get the virus from people, the environment, or other deer?

We do not know how the deer were exposed to SARS- CoV-2. It’s possible they were exposed through people, the environment, other deer, or another animal species.

Could the deer spread the virus to people?

There is no evidence that animals, including deer, are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people. Based on the available information, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low.

Do deer show clinical signs of illness?

This was not the focus of our study. However, there were no reports of clinical illness associated with SARS-CoV-2 in the deer populations we surveyed, and clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 have not been observed in wild white-tailed deer. In addition, captive deer experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 as part of a USDA Agricultural Research Service study did not show clinical signs of illness. […]

Is hunter-harvested game meat safe to eat?

There is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 by preparing or eating meat from an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2, including wild game meat hunted in the United States. However, hunters can get infected with many other diseases when processing or eating game.

* Also from Jordan…

DNR will work with USDA to test between 500-1000 deer this winter for COVID.

As the USDA report pointed out, ARPA included money for testing animals and the feds would be working with states on how to do this.

Finding out if animals can spread the disease to humans, or which can do so, could be important to stopping the spread.


  1. - Amalia - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 2:07 pm:

    Dale Bowman at the Sun Times will probably stay on this story as he is the absolute best at all aspects of outdoors issues. And by outdoors issues it’s hunting, fishing, guns, foraging, plant observation, regulations, legislation, and some humor, often including White Sox thoughts. Dale does it all, he’s an Illinois treasure. Outdoors issues are very important to follow.

  2. - Jibba - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 2:13 pm:

    Would antivaxxers support the mass vaccination of deer? Maybe, if you could track them with those imbedded microchips /s

  3. - Oh Dear - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 2:13 pm:

    Gotta mask the deer.

  4. - Huh? - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 2:48 pm:

    I can see it now, Buck screaming at the raccoon his body, his choice, none of that commie pinko stuff messing up his antlers. Doe is protesting social distancing and vax mandatws. Meanwhile, all Bambi wants to do is frolic in the woods.

  5. - Skeptic - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 2:52 pm:

    “DNR will work with USDA to test between 500-1000 deer this winter for COVID.” If they want to save expenses, they can start with the 300-400 in my front yard. I’ll even let them pitch a tent.

  6. - Wensicia - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:02 pm:

    It would be interesting to find out if COVID can be spread by predators. Are they testing these animals?

  7. - Huh? - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:04 pm:

    “mass vaccination of deer”

    Years ago, my sister sat in a Chicago Metropolitan urban wildlife board attempting to deal with the over abundance of deer in the Chicago area. One idea was to try a mass contraception of the deer as a means to reduce the population. The few times it was tried, the deer died of fright in the traps.

  8. - Suburban Mom - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:04 pm:

    The Suburban Kiddos are all huge animal fanatics, and have tracked animal Covid news closely. Zookeepers typically wear face masks when interacting with great apes and chimpanzees anyway — we can catch too many of each others’ nasty bugs — but it’s been really interesting to follow zoos’ Covid mitigation efforts, and to see which animals scientists think are more and less likely reservoirs. (Apparently, grazing herbivores like deer and horses and moose are relatively unlikely to threaten humans as reservoirs, because it’s a respiratory virus, and not a fecal bacteria or mosquito-borne disease.)

    Here’s a short story about Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos beginning vaccination of their highest-risk animals back in September:

    We watched a couple of short videos about the relatively extreme steps zoos were taking, especially early in the pandemic, to avoid infecting those incredibly genetically valuable and critically-endangered great apes in their care, when the animals still required normal daily care, but we were still learning a lot about transmission. Luckily, I guess, this isn’t a new thing for zoos, who sometimes deal with very sick animals who can infect their keepers, and have protocols, etc., already in place, in ways that human hospitals did not; although usually the fear is the sick animal infecting the human and not so much vice versa.

  9. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:14 pm:

    If I get within 6 feet of a live deer, one of us is doling something wrong.
    Wonder how the people who process deer will mitigate risk.

  10. - Thomas Paine - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:18 pm:

    Not to be a pessimist, but that high of a level of transmission within the white tail deer population leads me to be a little concerned that the disease is being spread not through the air but via mosquito or some other biting insect such as flies.

    Again, not to be a pessimist, but it is a bloodborne pathogen so….

  11. - Wensicia - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:20 pm:

    Thomas Paine - Good point.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 3:59 pm:

    Your playful play on words today Rich… made me laugh, twice.

    To the post,

    Disease in deer, I’m glad things are taken seriously and answers to questions are readily available about the safety for those hunting and what we know about infected deer.

  13. - Blue Dog - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 4:06 pm:

    Old Blue took matters into his own hands. I have beeb feeding the local deer my leftover hydroxochloro.

  14. - Frank talks - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 4:29 pm:

    Oh Deer what shall we do?

  15. - FormerParatrooper - Friday, Nov 5, 21 @ 4:46 pm:

    Deer are great social istancers when deer season opens. Probable the most successful social distancer would be Bigfoot.

    I will process my deer if I get one the same way I have always done. Do it myself. Check the organs for anything abnormal. W9nder if they have done post mortem studies on any infected deer and noticed anything in the lungs that would stand out visually?

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