The virus that causes COVID-19 was found in five white-tailed deer samples collected in southwestern Ontario last November.
Help from hunters
Those deer were brought in for testing by hunters to Chronic Wasting Disease check stations by hunters in WMUs 85C, 86B, 87A, 87B, 87C, 87D, 87E, 90B, 91A, 91B, 92A, and 92D.
According to a Jan. 18 Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry (MNDMNRF) media release, the testing revealed the first cases of the COVID-19 virus detected in free-ranging Ontario wildlife.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, had previously been detected in wild white-tailed deer in the northeastern US, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. It has also been found in free-ranging mink and cougar in the US.
COVID-19 is known to spread from human to human, the release noted.
Monitoring the situation
“There is no evidence that you can get COVID-19 from eating food, including game meat, however it is always important to cook meat to an internal temperature of 74˚C or 165˚F to kill any parasites, viruses or bacteria that may be present,” officials added.
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to follow the advice of your public health unit and to be fully vaccinated, the MNDMNRF stated.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is monitoring this situation closely and will keep members up to date as it evolves, wildlife biologist Dr. Keith Munro said.
“This detection highlights the important role that hunters play in wildlife disease surveillance as without hunters contributing samples to the CWD surveillance program, we may not have known the virus was circulating among our deer,” he said. “While the wildlife and human health implications of SARS-CoV-2 in deer are not yet known, hunters can help by reporting any sick, strange-acting or dead wildlife to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC).”
For additional information and best practices regarding COVID-19 in various wildlife species and animals visit: https://www.canada.ca/…/preventio…/animals-covid-19.html
The reporting link for CWHC is: http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/report_and_submit.php