Missouri Conservationists to Test Deer for COVID This Fall
The Missouri Department of Conservation is preparing to test hundreds of deer for COVID-19 this fall following a recent report from the U.S Department of Agriculture.
White-tailed deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania were tested in the federal study. Every sample showed at least 7% of the population having SARS-Cov-2 antibodies. The highest population showed a whopping 67% in Michigan.
“We want to be proactive,” said Jasmine Batten, wildlife health program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “We’re paying attention to other states, and this is the first step to see what’s going on in our state.”
However, Batten emphasized that the testing plan is still in the preliminary stage. As of now, the plan is to test the deer that will be killed this hunting season. Some of these deer will likely come from Boone County, Batten said.
“I’m more worried about it hurting the deer population. There is a chance for mutations.”Lisa Wayland Altschul, a biomedical engineer who serves on MU's Engineering Dean's Advisory Board
Deer hunting season has already begun for archery, and begins Oct. 30 for youth hunters and Nov. 13 for adult hunters with firearms.
There is no evidence of humans getting SARS-Cov-2 from consuming venison or any other kind of wild game meat. Lisa Wayland Altschul, a biomedical engineer who serves on MU's Engineering Dean's Advisory Board, said that this is because the virus is respiratory.
“I can’t see why it would transfer,” she said, “I’m more worried about it hurting the deer population. There is a chance for mutations.”
The USDA report shows that although deer were carrying the antibodies, none of them actually fell ill. In addition, there is no evidence of deer dying from SARS-Cov-2 at this time. Still, Batten said that there are a lot of unknowns about this situation, and it’s important to begin researching as soon as possible.
“The details will come together in the next couple of weeks,” she said, “It takes cooperation from many different levels and agencies to begin the testing process.”
In the meantime, this year’s hunting season will progress as normal. Batten said to keep practicing standard hygiene, like washing hands, wearing gloves and cooking meat to the proper temperature since wildlife can carry other pathogens.