Vermont, New Hampshire order COVID-19 tests for deer

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — With hunting season underway, wildlife agencies in New Hampshire and Vermont have started testing for COVID-19 in white-tailed deer, as antibodies for the virus have been found in deer in other states, according to a government study.

“We collected blood samples this year during the five busiest days of the hunting season,” said Dan Bergeron, the deer biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “We have biologists at biological check stations and collect ages and weights annually. This year, we also had them collect blood samples.”

New Hampshire and Vermont were approached by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service about testing the white-tailed deer population as part of its national research on the spread of COVID-19 among the species.

Maine is monitoring the tests from other states, but is not actively testing deer for COVID-19. Separately, the state said it detected high levels of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in harvested deer in the Fairfield area.

In its study, released in July, the inspection service tested 481 deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and found COVID-19 antibodies in 33% of the samples.

“We do not know how the deer were exposed” to the virus, the study said. “It’s possible they were exposed through people, the environment, other deer, or another animal species.”

The study said that based on available information, the risk of deer and other animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. It also said there were no reports of clinical illness in the deer populations surveyed, and that captive deer “experimentally infected” with the virus as part of a USDA Agricultural Research Service study didn’t show clinical signs of illness.

Wild turkeys a success

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont’s wild turkey population is the result of a successful wildlife restoration project, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said.

Wild turkeys had disappeared from the state in the mid-to-late 1800s when land was cleared for farming, destroying habitat, the department said. At that time only a quarter of the state was covered by forest, officials said.

In 1969 and 1970, the department stocked 31 wild turkeys in Rutland County as the state’s forest habitat could again support the birds, the department said. Wildlife biologists moved groups of the turkeys north. Now, the state has a population of nearly 50,000 wild turkeys.

“This is just one of many wildlife restoration success stories we can be thankful for in 2021,” the department said in a statement.

The restoration was paid for by the sale of hunting licenses and a federal tax on hunting equipment, the state said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.39/week.

Subscribe Today