You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Can white-tailed deer give humans COVID? What to know before Vermont deer hunting season.

The Burlington Free Press logo The Burlington Free Press 10/27/2021 Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Free Press
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

White-tailed deer can carry the COVID-19 virus, but there is little danger to people who hunt the animals for their meat, according to Nick Fortin, deer and moose project leader at Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

While it's possible that the deer could transmit the virus to humans, they've mostly been found to transmit the virus among themselves, Fortin said, citing recent studies. The deer carry the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease and the antibodies, but do not get sick with the disease themselves. 

a herd of cattle standing on top of a grass covered field: A group of deer travel through a Williston neighborhood mid-morning Jan 4, 2020 © APRIL BARTON/FREE PRESS A group of deer travel through a Williston neighborhood mid-morning Jan 4, 2020

"We've known since pretty early in the pandemic that deer were potentially susceptible to the virus," Fortin said. "They're one of the species that has the receptor that's very similar to humans."

Fortin spoke about the recent studies as Vermont gears up for regular deer hunting rifle season, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 13. Deer archery season is already underway, and muzzleloader hunting of antlerless deer is scheduled to occur from Oct. 28 to Oct. 31. 

What does COVID-19 research mean for Vermont deer hunters?

Most of the studies so far have occurred in more urban areas where deer might come into more frequent contact with humans, Fortin said. No deer in Vermont have been tested, so the prevalence of the virus among Vermont deer is unknown. 

What to know: Here are the COVID advisory measures for high school winter sports during the 21-22 season

Scientists believe that humans initially passed the virus to deer, but it is yet unclear whether deer can transmit the virus back to humans, Fortin said. 

"But, it is, theoretically, possible," Fortin said.

A hunter coming into contact with a deer that he or she killed has a very low risk of contracting COVID-19 from the deer, even if the deer is infected, Fortin said. The virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, but hunters aren't typically handling parts of a deer's upper respiratory tract. 

"We always recommend when field dressing an animal that hunters wear gloves," Fortin said. "That's still a good practice. I guess I would say if a hunter is very concerned, they could wear a mask while field dressing. But again, the risk is extremely low."

There is no risk whatsoever that hunters will get the virus from the cooked meat either because cooking meat thoroughly often rids meat of any bacteria or viruses that exist when it's raw. Fortin said the hunter would need to be eating the lungs or trachea for there to be any risk of contracting the virus, "which is not a thing that happens." 

What to know about Vermont's deer hunting season

Fortin said the 2021 hunting season should mainly be back to normal after the 2020 season occurred in the midst of a number of COVID-19 restrictions. He recommended that hunters practice safe COVID-19 protocols and get vaccinated. 

Get involved: Vermont wildlife officials want help stopping poachers. Here's how to make a report.

Hunters should also wear fluorescent orange hats and vests to be visible to other hunters. 

Hunters who kill a deer on either Nov. 13 or Nov. 14 are being asked to help the state's deer management program by reporting their deer at a biological check station. Those stations are: 

  • Buck Stop Mini Mart – 735 Main St., Bennington.
  • Keith’s Country Store – 4085 U.S. 7, Pittsford.
  • R&L Archery – 70 Smith St., Barre.
  • Newfane Store – 596 Vermont 30, Newfane.
  • West Enosburg Country Store – 2394 West Enosburg Rd., Enosburg Falls.
  • The Old Fishing Hole – 81 Bridge St., Morristown (Saturday only).
  • Bob’s Quick Stop – 6196 Vermont 14, Irasburg.
  • Lead & Tackle Co. – 31 Middle St., Lyndonville.
  • Village Grocery & Deli – 4348 Main St., Waitsfield.
  • Wright’s Sport Shop – 48 Community Dr., Newport.
  • Tyson Store – 1786 Vermont 100, Ludlow. 

Vermont Fish and Wildlife is asking hunters who cannot go to a reporting station to submit a tooth to a state reporting agent.

The Vermont deer hunting dates are: 

  • Archery: Oct. 1 to Dec. 15, except during regular deer hunting season. 
  • Muzzleloader antlerless: Permits needed. Oct. 28 to Oct. 31. 
  • Regular season: Nov. 13 to Nov. 28. 
  • Muzzleloader: Dec. 4 to Dec. 12.

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-310-8585 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Can white-tailed deer give humans COVID? What to know before Vermont deer hunting season.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Burlington Free Press

The Burlington Free Press
The Burlington Free Press
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon