The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently completed a study that analyzed serum samples from free-ranging white-tailed deer for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Results of the study indicate that certain white-tailed deer populations in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
Samples were obtained opportunistically as part of wildlife damage management activities conducted by APHIS Wildlife Services across 32 counties in the 4 states. These samples were tested at APHIS’ National Wildlife Research Center and National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 33% of the 481 samples collected from January 2020 through 2021. None of the deer populations surveyed showed signs of clinical illness associated with SARS-CoV-2.
It is important to note that this surveillance was designed to determine exposure of deer to SARS-CoV-2 in their natural environment. It was not designed to determine whether the deer were replicating and shedding SARS-CoV-2.
You can read more in the stakeholder announcement or the fact sheet from USDA APHIS.