Hunters beware: Deer added to growing list of animals that can carry, transmit COVID-19

Wildlife specialist says, "Wear gloves when you're handling wild game."


With rifle deer season just around the corner, wildlife experts want hunters to be aware that animals can carry COVID-19.


But there are ways hunters can protect themselves in the midst of the pandemic while in the great outdoors.

“It’s turning out that a lot of wildlife and domestic animals are able to be a carrier for COVID-19,” said Dwayne Elmore, a wildlife extension specialist with Oklahoma State University.

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Elmore said recent research suggests deer can carry COVID-19 and transmit it to humans.

“That is not really that surprising because other coronaviruses have worked that way in the past,” he said. “People don’t need to be really, overly alarmed about this because we’ve already known that it’s in dogs and cats and ferrets, primates and a lot of other animals. This is just one more that we’ve added to the list.”

Elmore said people shouldn’t be concerned in the short term. But, he said, “It’s going to be even less likely that we’re ever able to be rid of this disease because it’s going to be harbored in so many other animals.”

So if you’re deer hunting this season, be mindful of where you’re handling the animal.

“The likely way you're going to come in contact is if an animal or human is respiring in your presence. So an animal that's been harvested, you know, that's not happening. Obviously, there's still a potential that you could come in contact with the virus, like on your hands, if you put your hand around the mouth of the deer and then you touched your face. So that's an easy one to avoid. Just wear gloves when you're handling wild game. We should do that anyway,” he said.

“The risk to a hunter or someone from harvesting an animal is extremely low. And when you cook the meat, most of the viruses are in the respiratory tract,” but cooking the animal kills the virus.

Bottom line: “If people are worried about it, get vaccinated,” he said.