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Deer gun hunting season starts this weekend amidst national deer COVID concerns

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 6:07 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 6:23 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - For our local hunters, this weekend has likely been circled on their calendars for quite some time. The start of gun deer hunting season is this Saturday, November 20, and runs through next Sunday, November 28.

However, a spread of COVID-19 in deer across the country has some investigating what it may mean for hunters’ health.

“Other than normal things you would do like washing your hands to keep them clean and things like that, I think it is unlikely that we are going to hear about a rash of hunters coming down from COVID because the deer that they shot was COVID positive,” Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health, shared.

Questions about how harmful the transmission of COVID-19 could be from deer were initially raised after an August U.S. Department of Agriculture study found coronavirus antibodies in deer across four states: Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania.

To read that U.S.D.A. study CLICK HERE.

Yet, there have been no identified deer COVID cases in Wisconsin. Nor an easy way to get your kill tested for the coronavirus.

“I’m not aware of any tests for COVID that are available to the consumer,” Mark LaBarbera, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “I don’t know many people who are concerned about it at this time. We just want to make sure we keep an eye on it.”

Different researchers from Pennsylvania State University who sampled deer in Iowa from September 2020 to January 2021 also detected coronavirus exposure. Likely a result of human-to-deer spillover events and deer-to-deer transmission.

To read more about their findings CLICK HERE.

The Wisconsin D.N.R. emphasized there have been no records of deer to human infection.

To learn more about hunting protocol from the Wisconsin D.N.R. CLICK HERE.

“Certainly this information coming out right in advance of the opening weekend of our gun deer season, a valued tradition here in the state of Wisconsin,” Wisconsin D.N.R. Health Section Chief, Tami Ryan, said. “Hunters are aware of this finding and are curious or wondering if this changes anything for them and I would just like to offer that it does not.”

The Wisconsin D.N.R. has agreed to partner with the U.S.D.A. on a new study, further investigating COVID in deer, which is scheduled to begin this winter.

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