The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation confirms some deer in the state have tested positive for COVID-19.
ODWC said wildlife biologists determined some deer in Oklahoma had COVID after taking blood samples during deer herd health studies both this and last year. ODWC said several different animals, domestic and wild, are known to carry the virus, though it's not clear how deer contract it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it is possible deer are exposed through people, the environment, other deer, or animals.
Research reveals COVID cases in deer in multiple other states. A study in Iowa revealed more than 80-percent of the whitetail deer sampled in different parts of the state between December 2020 and January 2021 tested positive COVID.
As of now, ODWC said there aren't any documented cases of humans becoming infected from whitetail deer and added there's no known risk of COVID exposure while cleaning a deer or eating cooked venison
Still, the department has tips for handling a harvested deer. On ODWC’s website it said, “To reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection when handling harvested deer, people should follow the same guidelines recommended to reduce human-to-human transmissions, such as hand washing, gloves, and masks. Personal vaccination can also greatly reduce the risk of catching the virus.”
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife shared similar advice and said hunters should always "avoid handling or consuming wild animals that appear sick or those found dead," "wear gloves and a face shield when handling" game, and minimize contact with the brain or spinal tissue.
"Out of an abundance of caution for COVID-19, additional preventative measures include avoiding the head, lungs and digestive tract," the division said.