U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers found COVID-19 antibodies in the blood samples of 40 percent of the 385 whitetail deer they tested in Michigan, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania between January and March 2021. These findings, which have yet to be peer-reviewed, showed the extent to which wild whitetail deer can catch a disease that has killed over 600,000 Americans in the last year and a half. It also demonstrated that deer were capable for passing the disease to other deer.
“At present there’s no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is having any detrimental effect on deer. And for humans, our infinitely greater problem is spread from other humans,” Daniel Bausch, a Switzerland-based zoonotic diseases expert, told National Geographic. A memo published by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service emphasized that 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.”
Especially relevant to hunters, the memo adds that “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. Hunters should always practice good hygiene when processing animals.”