Studies show COVID-19 found in deer, Missouri wildlife officials say not to worry

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Can deer carry COVID-19? Some scientists say yes but what does that mean for this year’s hunting season? Do hunters need to be concerned or be prepared?

The data comes from two different studies. One is from Pennsylvania State University and the other published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS.) They say COVID is found in some deer but there is currently no evidence it can be passed to humans.

In the PNAS study they found around 40% of the white tailed deer sampled either had COVID-19 or carried the antibodies.

Keith Mark is the founder of Hunter Nation, a hunter advocacy group. He also hosts the show Great American Tales on the Outdoor Channel.

“I don’t think there’s anything earth shattering in that study,” Mark said. “We have to be concerned when information comes out, we have to be very careful not to jump the gun on it. And so I think we should pay close attention, do some additional studies and see how it impacts.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation agrees. Bill Graham is a media specialist with the conservation and says their scientists have looked at the studies.

“We’re not recommending that deer hunters make any changes to their habits, practices, and their hunting methods because there’s no evidence to date at all that COVID moves from deer to people at all,” Graham said.

Researchers at Penn State say there is a possibility it could be transferred to humans, but haven’t seen it happen. The concern is if it could be transferred back to humans COVID-19 may never really go away and continue to stay alive through animals.

What may really concern hunters at this point is if they can harvest the meat.

“The meat is safe to eat and any kind of cooking that raises up to a good high temperature kills any pathogens. The meat is safe even if a deer had COVID,” Graham said.

Graham said they will keep watching for new data but the department is encouraging hunter nation to enjoy deer season.

“I think Coronavirus is real I think it’s deadly. I think we need to take it seriously. I don’t think it’s a hoax. But I also think that you know, when the sun comes up tomorrow, I’m going to get up and I’m going to live my life,” Mark said.

Graham also said if you want to learn more about the topic there are a few places online with information. The CDC has a page dedicated to reducing the risk of COVID spreading between people and wildlife. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has information on what studies have been done and any concerns people could have.

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