The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) confirmed on Monday that the department will work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to test up to 1,000 deer for the virus between now and March 2022.

My first thought upon hearing this was "is this coronavirus pandemic causing problems in the woods?"

White Tailed Deer Fawn in Meadow, Mt.Rainier, WA
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There's Been A Pretty Large COVID-19 Outbreak Among Deer In Several States

The IDNR's confirmation of the planned COVID-19 deer testing comes about after testing earlier in the year in Illinois found that about 7% of the deer population was infected with COVID-19, and after testing of the deer populations in Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York found that deer in those states had even worse outbreaks.

Similar tests from last year in Iowa showed the virus spreading rapidly in local deer populations. In a seven-week period from last Thanksgiving to January, about 82.5 percent of deer tested in Iowa were positive for the virus, according to one news report.

Eric Schauber, a biologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told WCIS in August that 7 percent of deer tested in Illinois had antibodies for the virus.

A pair of five week old white-tailed fawns stand at the edge of a pond.
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Does COVID-19 Affect Deer In The Same Way It Does Human Beings?

That's the strange and interesting part about this planned testing. According to the IDNR, researchers remain unclear on whether or not deer manifest the same, or similar symptoms that humans do, if any at all. There is also no evidence that deer can spread COVID-19 to humans, either.

Researchers are trying to find out if deer can harbor COVID-19 and allow it to survive and mutate, if deer can spread it to domestic animals, where deer caught COVID-19 to begin with, and whether deer could produce new variants.

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