CONCORD, NH (AP) – While the hunting season is underway, wildlife agencies in New Hampshire and Vermont have started testing white-tailed deer for COVID-19 as antibodies to the virus have been found in deer in other states, according to a government study.
“We took blood samples this year during the busiest five days of the hunting season,” said Dan Bergeron, deer biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “We have biologists at biological monitoring stations and collect ages and weights every year. This year, we also asked them to take blood samples.
New Hampshire and Vermont have been approached by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to test the white-tailed deer population as part of its national research into the spread of COVID-19 among the species.
Maine is monitoring testing from other states, but is not actively testing deer for COVID-19. Separately, the state said it detected elevated levels of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances, in deer slaughtered in the Fairfield area.
In its study, published in July, the inspection service tested 481 deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and found COVID-19 antibodies in 33% of the samples.
“We don’t know how the deer were exposed” to the virus, according to the study. “It is possible that they were exposed by people, the environment, other deer or another animal species. “
The study said based on the information available, the risk of deer and other animals transmitting COVID-19 to humans is low. He also said that there had been no reports of clinical disease in the deer populations studied and that captive deer “experimentally infected” with the virus as part of a study by the agricultural research service of the ‘USDA showed no clinical signs of disease.