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Hunters may face COVID-19 risk when hunting deer, officials say

Health officials recommend hunters wear masks when they’re out hunting deer to protect themselves from COVID-19

A young antlered deer nibbles at a tree in Zelienople, Pennsylvania.
A young antlered deer nibbles at a tree on the edge of the woods in a frost covered field on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Zelienople, Pennsylvania.
Keith Srakocic, Associated Press

Wisconsin health officials said Monday that hunters should wear masks when field-dressing deer during this fall’s hunting season, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services updated its guidance for deer hunters Monday, adding new advice on taking proper precautions when out in the field.

  • “Hunters are always encouraged to use good hygiene practices when processing animals to reduce their risk of exposure to many possible disease agents,” the department said. “Incorporating a few additional measures can also help to reduce their risk of possible exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Some of the new changes include:

  • Wear a mask when field-dressing deer.
  • If you’re immunocompromised, you may want to ask for help with processing and handling.
  • Consider how much you’re cutting into or handling the deer.

The department said there’s no evidence that wildlife can cause COVID-19 illness in people. However, signs that COVID-19 can be found in wildlife prompted the officials to make the recommendations, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Questions about deer and COVID-19 have been running wild this fall. In fact, researchers at Iowa State University found about 80% of deer in a sample group tested positive for COVID-19, per KCCI-TV.

Tyler Harms, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told KCCI-TV it’s unlikely COVID-19 can pass from deer to humans.

However, experts are worried that letting the coronavirus spread between animals could lead to new dangerous mutations, per Business Insider.