Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Detects State’s First Case of COVID-19 in Mule Deer

by Shelby Scott
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COVID-19 has become one of the largest national conversations since the virus’s inception in 2019. More recently though, populations of white-tailed deer across America have reportedly contracted the disease as well. But now, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has reported the first case of COVID-19 in an American mule deer.

At a Glance:

  • Scientists found cases of COVID-19 in white-tailed deer in multiple regions of the U.S. last year.
  • Utah’s DWR found a single case of COVID-19 in one of the state’s female mule deer.
  • Others in the herd were confirmed carrying antibodies.
  • There is no evidence to suggest the deer populations could spread COVID-19 to humans.

Utah’s First COVID-19-Infected Mule Deer:

According to St. George News, Utah’s DWR identified the first case of COVID-19 in its mule deer population after submitting samples taken from the animals over the winter months. The outlet reports that the APHIS’ National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa confirmed the case. Interestingly, the female mule deer had contracted the delta variant of the virus.

The research also found that several other deer in the herd were carrying COVID-19 antibodies.

Of the find, DWR State Veterinarian Ginger Stout said, “While it is confirmed that mule deer are susceptible to this virus, the deer that we took samples from did not show any clinical signs of the illness.”

Stout further shared, “there isn’t any evidence that it is killing mule deer.”

So far, the wildlife experts’ research hasn’t revealed how the mule deer contracted the virus. Scientists, however, presume the herd saw exposure as a result of contact with people, other deer, or even a completely different animals species.

The Mule Deer Study’s Findings:

According to the news outlet, the mule deer found positive with COVID-19 came out of Morgan County. Officials tested the deer in the herd via a nasal swab and through blood samples, like humans. Researchers also placed GPS tracking collars on the animals to remain informed of their whereabouts.

Because several of the deer carried COVID-19 antibodies, scientists confirmed the animals had contracted the virus before being captured for testing.

Additionally, Stout shared, “There is also no evidence that animals, including mule deer, are playing a significant role in spreading [COVID-19] to people, and the available research suggests that the likelihood of getting COVID-19 from an animal is quite low.”

Even more important, the study also yielded no evidence of the potential for humans to contract COVID-19 from consuming game infected with the disease. Nevertheless, Outsiders should always take care when handling harvested animals.

Several important reminders include:

  • Keeping your pets away from wildlife, including hunting dogs.
  • Don’t harvest animals that appear sick or are found dead.
  • Cool harvested meat as soon as possible.
  • Practice good hygiene when handling and cleaning game.

Altogether, samples came from 280 mule deer from across the state. The samples collected made their way to two USDA labs in other states for testing.

Outsider.com