Wildlife Officials Offer Explanation for Rampant COVID Spread in Whitetail Deer

by Michael Freeman

World governments have their hands full trying to stifle COVID’s spread with humans while wildlife officials are doing the same with animals. On the latter front, authorities may know now why it’s rampantly spreading in whitetail deer.

Though the contraction method still isn’t known, wildlife experts think they know how it’s spreading within whitetail deer. They hypothesize the deer are drinking contaminated water, making it spread quickly, Daily Mail reports. Specifically, the contaminated water contains human feces and wastewater. Animals contracting the virus is increasingly common, with areas in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Ohio seeing high numbers.

Penn State University discovered more than 80 percent of the white-tailed deer tested in different parts of Iowa tested positive for COVID. Similarly, 67 percent in Michigan contracted the virus. To help combat the spread, experts suggest surveillance programs to monitor COVID’s spread. This includes initiatives to “mitigate potential spillback” and regulate the water animals drink.

Associate Director of the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory from Penn State, Suresh Kuchipudi, issued a statement regarding the infection rate. “We found that 80% of the sampled deer in December were positive for SARS-CoV-2, which proportionally represents about a 50-fold greater burden of positivity than what was reported at the peak of infection in humans at the time.”

Further, Kuchipudi said, “The number of SARS-CoV-2 positive deer increased over the period from April to December 2020, with the greatest increases coinciding with the peak of deer hunting season last year.” With hunters killing the infected deer, some worry it may lead to new strains affecting humans and animals. However, as of now, scientists state there is no evidence to support such a claim.

Whitetail Buck Enters Elementary School Classroom and Becomes Stuck Inside

While we try to educate ourselves, it appears wildlife may be trying to do the same. A few months ago, a whitetail buck found itself stuck in an elementary school classroom.

Perhaps trying to learn about COVID spreading among its species, the whitetail buck entered Westside Elementary in Tennessee. According to Tennessean, it somehow managed to squeeze its way through an emergency door without breaking it. A teacher discovered the deer and called wildlife authorities, prompting Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Officer Kaleb Stratton to intervene.

Though the buck turned over a few tables and chairs, the school remained unharmed. Stratton noted he felt lucky they found the deer before more staff and students arrived. “Bucks can be really crazy around this time of year,” Stratton said. “They’re not trying to be mean. They’re just wild animals.”

The deer itself walked away with a small scrape on its back from the incident but otherwise suffered no injuries. The deer also lacked an antler, though it’s unknown if it arrived that way or lost it during the escape.