New studies show that America's deer population is catching COVID-19 from humans, what does that mean for hunting and the future of the pandemic?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and other organizations are looking at the effects of COVID on the deer population, and the results may surprise you. Between January 2020 and March 2021 samples were collected from nearly 500 deer from Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, and SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were found in 33% of those samples.

Another study done in Iowa took samples from deer between April 2020 and January 2021, it found up to 80% of deer in the state may be infected with COVID-19. These results left the researchers "dumbfounded," and say that is could be a game changer for the pandemic.

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At this point, there is no evidence to suggest that deer can pass COVID on to humans, but the problem is, the virus could keep spreading within the deer population, mutate eventually, and possibly find a way to come back to humans and be resistant to existing vaccines.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says, "There is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 by preparing or eating meat from an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2, including wild game meat hunted in the United States."

Doug Schultz from The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource told TwinCities.com, "While the risk of acquiring COVID from wild deer is low, we would advise deer hunters to take precautions when dealing with white-tailed deer: wear rubber gloves and perhaps a mask when field dressing and processing; sanitize hands and instruments after dressing; and bag carcass remains before disposing in trash."

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