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NJ Deer Tests Positive For COVID-19 Antibodies

Patch logo Patch 1/21/2022 Alexis Tarrazi
The coronavirus continues to spread — this time targeting New Jersey deer. © Shutterstock The coronavirus continues to spread — this time targeting New Jersey deer.

NEW JERSEY — The coronavirus continues to spread — this time targeting New Jersey deer.

SARS-CoV-2 was been detected in two free-ranging deer in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services and the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

New Jersey joins the growing list of states reporting positive COVID-19 antibodies in their deer including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Other states, such as Wisconsin, have begun testing their deer populations.

As of Thursday, Jan. 20, 398 samples have been collected from New Jersey game butcher shops in this first year of the anticipated two-year study.

The presence of COVID-19 amongst deer is unlikely to impact human cases, according to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

"There is no evidence that wildlife, including white-tailed deer, are a source of COVID-19 illness for people in the United States or that people can get COVID-19 from preparing and eating harvested game meat," according to the CDC.

Despite there being no evidence, the NJ Department of Fish & Wildlife still offered hygiene and safety recommendations to deer hunters:

Hygiene practices for hunters:


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  • Do not allow contact between wildlife and domestic animals, including pets and hunting dogs.
  • Do not harvest animals that appear sick or are found dead.
  • Keep game meat clean and cool the meat down as soon as possible after harvesting the animal.

Safety practices:

  • Wear a mask to reduce your risk of coming into contact with pathogens transmitted through respiratory droplets. Preparing a carcass may make aerosols (small droplets and particles in the air) which could contain the virus.
  • Wear rubber or disposable gloves.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling and cleaning game.
  • Avoid cutting through the backbone and spinal tissues and do not eat the brains of wildlife.

When finished handling and cleaning game:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that were in contact with game meat with soap and water and then disinfect them.
  • Cook all game meat thoroughly (to an internal temperature of 165°F or higher).

While there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from deer to other animal species, the virus has also been found in other wildlife species such as mink, leopard, and in zoo settings in big cats, gorillas, otters, binturong, coatimundi, fishing cats and hyenas.

In Wisconsin, some dead minks tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to that, hundreds of workers in the Netherlands reported becoming ill with mink-related variants after an outbreak.

Still, researchers said there is a far greater chance of catching COVID-19 from another human than an animal, even for hunters, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Overall, the virus is not expected to have a negative impact on the overall deer population, according to the CDC.

Have a news tip? Email alexis.tarrazi@patch.com.

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