The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is studying COVID within the deer population. Tami Ryan, the chief of the DNR’s wildlife health section told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “Wisconsin officials recently received guidance, funding and supplies from USDA to look for the virus in deer in the Badger State.”
According to The Journal Sentinel, samples will be collected during the winter from hunter-killed deer to try and understand if the Wisconsin deer population is carrying COVID.
Studies in Ohio and Iowa found over 30% of the animals they tested had COVID.
According to the DNR, the study is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services multi-state effort to better understand COVID transmission through the deer population.
The Wisconsin DNR website details the study being done and explains that while it doesn’t know that human to deer and deer-to-deer transmission occurs, it is unsure if deer to human transmission is possible. According to the DNR, “There are no documented cases of humans becoming infected with [COVID] from white-tailed deer, and risk is likely low.”
DNR also recommends that hunters wear a mask while field-dressing deer to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID from deer. The Wisconsin DNR page also linked to COVID hunting recommendations on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, which recommends not allowing any contact between wildlife and domestic animals, including hunting dogs.
The CDC also recommends wearing a mask and gloves while “preparing a carcass.”
The Journal Sentinel reported, “Participants [in the deer testing program] were provided instructions and a kit of supplies. They are asked to submit a nasal swab and a blood sample from each deer.”
The samples collected from the deer will be processed at the USDA National Wildlife Disease Program facility in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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