How do deer catch covid?

I’ve read lots of articles about deer having covid in north America. Here’s one:

I haven’t seen any that say how they catch it, or spread it, however. Maybe that’s not known, yet. But it seems odd. We are told it’s not very contagious outdoors. I’m pretty sure these deer aren’t hanging out in crowded bars, though.

Is it close social interactions? Spread by fecal contamination? Something else? Are there implications for human spread?

I’ve tagged this as “factual” and while i expect some speculation, I’d like to stick to the factual topic, and not veer off into politics or policy.

The short of it: close contact with people or other animals that are infected with COVID.

It’s possible COVID spread to deer via an intermediate host or two, since deer are generally wary of people.

This article discusses animals and COVID-19…

Did you mean to link some other page? That article mentions deer, but says almost nothing about them. Not how they catch it, not how many have it, not really any info on deer. It has some stuff on mink and pets.

Yeah it was more general about animals and COVID, not specific to deer. I thought you were asking how deer got the disease in the first place.

Based on the article, it seems news about deer with COVID emerged because that’s where people are looking, but it may be that other wildlife are also catching it, but no one is looking there, so no reports have emerged yet.

As a respiratory illness, wouldn’t deer pass it to one another the same way people do?

From what I have read, no one is really certain exactly how the deer are getting infected from humans. The virus in humans mutates as time goes on, and the virus in deer also mutates. By studying these mutations, researchers have learned that deer populations have been infected at least half a dozen different times, so this hasn’t just come from one single contact.

Possible methods of infection are through other intermediate species (as was already mentioned) or from humans going into the woods and depositing the virus on branches, leaves, etc. and then the deer come along later and contact the virus from where it was left.

Yep. Once it gets into the deer population, they spread it the same way that we do.

Well, that would have been my initial assumption. But we’ve been told that the risk of spreading covid outdoors is minimal. And deer live outdoors. So how did infection rates get so high among deer?

This, my question. Do they nuzzle each other a lot? Is it spread through feces among deer? Something else?

And we’ve been told the risk of catching covid from fomites is low. So what things are people coughing on, and if a deer catches covid from eating a branch i breathed on, what does that imply about people catching covid from eating carrots that someone might have breathed on?

True, but there are an awful lot of deer out there. All you need to do is get one of them infected and they’ll pass it on to the herd fairly easily.

When I lived in West Virginia my house was on a deer path. Every night, about 30 or so deer would come through my back yard. They very conveniently trimmed all of my bushes without destroying them, which I thought was nice of them. If anyone in that neighborhood has covid and the deer are still going through there every night, then that’s a lot of opportunities for a rare event to happen.

There are something like 25 million deer in the US. If only 1 percent of them are in regular contact with humans, that’s 250,000. If there is only a 0.1 percent chance of them getting the virus from this contact, that’s 250 infected deer. Since deer stubbornly refuse to wear masks and isolate, the virus can spread quickly through the herd. Obviously these numbers are made up (except the 25 million, I got that one from google), but it illustrates the point I think.

I have to wonder if maybe mosquitos are involved as well. Nothing I have read has mentioned mosquitos.

Some hunters aren’t out there for the hunting. :wink:

But how? As @puzzlegal has noted, the common understanding is that it’s rare for people to catch Covid outdoors, which is where deer spend most of their time. If Covid is spread from human to human mostly indoors, especially in crowded or poorly-ventilated spaces, how is it spread from deer to deer?

I’m not sure that applies to situations where the one person has to get close enough to lick the insects from the other’s face. This is not a normal social situation for (most) people, obviously, but it’s daily life for deer.

Yeah, the rare human to deer transmission isn’t surprising. Lots of potential contact directly with people, lots more via mice, who can have a lot of contact with people. It’s the apparently routine deer-to-deer infection that I am asking about.

If you go around doing this all the time, natural ventilation isn’t going to help you much.

Seems legit. That may be a satisfactory answer.

Thanks. So I guess:

was close enough. The answer seems to be that deer are highly social and engage in lots of extremely close physical contact with each other on a regular basis.

Whoa! I’m not supposed to lick strangers’ eyeballs?? I have to reevaluate my life.

Agree, that seems right. And as mentioned, deer populations are healthy/over-healthy in a lot of areas, so they are evidently getting very close. A lot.

As to how deer are getting the same variants humans are getting:

Not gonna go there. But, I suspect people feeding deer by hand, getting close enuf to share germs, may play a role even when outside.

Do hunters leave bait or salt licks in the woods to attract deer?

Besides deer nuzzling each other, I bet fomites are more of an issue with deer. We touch fomites, then have to immediately touch our nose and mouth. You lose viable virus by it sticking to your hand. Deer nuzzle fomites directly.

Feeders are pretty common equipment for hunting and yes they do tend to cause deer to congregate more than they might otherwise.