A deadly, antibiotic-resistant “superbug” formerly found mostly in hospitals, gyms, and other high-traffic human areas has now been found for the first time in wildlife, according to this story on

Wild animals harbor and transmit the most infamous and life-threatening drug-resistant germ, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to a study published this month (October 1) in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, which identified the deadly superbug in two wild rabbits and a shorebird. “[MRSA] can move all over,” epidemiologist and senior author of the study Tara Smith of Iowa told KCRG, a local ABC affiliate in Iowa. “It extends beyond your typical human environment: hospitals, gyms, homes. It can also be in the wild environment,” she added, and “animals can be reservoirs and transmit it to people.”

According to the story, researchers surveyed 114 animals from a wildlife center at Iowa State University, and found that seven animals carried non-drug resistant forms of the bug, including owls, a beaver, a heron, and a squirrel. But it’s the discovery that three animals tested positive for MRSA that is raising eyebrows and concerns. The non drug-resistant form of the staph germ is easily treated with antibiotics.

The resistant MRSA form, however, kills an estimated 18,000 Americans a year, with many of those victims contracting the bacteria during hospital stays. Researchers aren’t sure how wild animals are picking up MRSA, but according to the story the shorebird carried a strain similar to those found in hospitals, while the rabbits’ strain was similar to those found on farms, which leads many to speculate that MRSA is being spread through sewage or water run-off.

Thoughts? Most of us wear gloves while field-dressing big game, but do stories like this make you think you should be wearing gloves for all your game-cleaning chores, large and small alike?