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Female mule deer tests positive for COVID-19 in Utah

Mar 28, 2022, 7:13 PM | Updated: 9:20 pm
A female mule deer in Morgan County has tested positive for the delta variant of COVID-19.
Photo cr...
A female mule deer in Morgan County has tested positive for the delta variant of COVID-19. Photo credit: DWR

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in mule deer in Utah. 

A female deer from Morgan County tested positive for the delta variant. The DWR said several other Utah deer that had been tested had the antibodies in their blood samples. That indicates the virus had already been in the deer population, prior to their capture. 

“While it is confirmed that mule deer are susceptible to this virus, the deer that we took samples from did not show any clinical signs of the illness, and there isn’t any evidence that it is killing mule deer,” DWR State Veterinarian Ginger Stout said in a press release. “There is also no evidence that animals, including mule deer, are playing a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people, and the available research suggests that the likelihood of getting COVID-19 from an animal is quite low.” 

How the mule deer caught the virus

The DWR is uncertain how the deer contracted the virus. Also, the DWR says that it’s possible the deer may have been exposed to it by people, other deer or other animal species.

The DWR says there is no evidence that people can contract COVID by eating meat from an infected animal. However, hunters should always practice good hygiene. Good hygiene practices include the following:

  • Do not allow contact between wildlife and domestic animals. This includes pets and hunting dogs.
  • Do not harvest animals that are already dead, and avoid harvesting an animal that appears sick.
  • Game meat must be kept clean. Cool the meat down as soon as possible after harvesting the animal.
  • Avoid cutting through the animal’s backbone and spinal tissues, and do not eat the brains of wildlife.
  • Don’t eat, drink or smoke while handling the meat. Wear gloves when handling or clean game meat. 
  • When you are finished handling and cleaning the meat, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

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