Officials urge the outlaws to avoid feeding wildlife to limit the spread of disease.
About 300 Utah deer are awaiting results to see if they have received COVID-19 – and yes, they endured a nose graft.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is testing 300 of the state’s mules for coronavirus, after one recent study found the virus in white-tailed deer in 15 states. The deer were tested using blood samples and nose swabs during DWR’s annual big game catch, said wildlife department spokesman Faith Heaton Jolley.
“Our state veterinarian said researchers believe COVID initially spread from humans to deer, but there is evidence that they are spreading it to each other at this time,” Heaton Jolley wrote in a text. “It is spread in the same way as it is in humans, through respiratory secretions.”
While the jury is still in doubt as to whether Utah deer have been given COVID-19, Utahns can still help prevent disease among deer, elk and elk populations by not feeding wildlife. The game department is particularly concerned about the spread of chronic wasting disease, a deadly disease that attacks the nervous system of deer, elk and elk.
Chronic waste disease is caused by the same type of particle as mad cow disease, and has been found in a few counties in Utah. Animals with this disease develop brain lesions, become emaciated, appear lethargic and have drooping ears, according to a press release from DWR.
Protein particles – called prions – transmit chronic wasting disease, and these particles can remain contagious for years. Animals can contract the disease through contact with another infected animal or through environmental contamination, such as through an animal’s excrement or saliva, although transmission rates from animals to humans are considered to be extremely low.
The disease spreads easily in areas where large numbers of deer, elk or elk congregate, which is why the game department wants to prevent individuals from feeding the wild animals.
Crowds of these animals can also cause increased traffic accidents or conflicts between humans and wildlife, as they will return to the area where they were fed in search of more food, the wildlife department said. And a large number of prey means that a large number of predators will follow – just like cougars that follow deer herds.
While it can be tempting to help a lone lir, Heaton Jolley said people need to remember that a lone fawn can one day become a big buck – and can become more aggressive with age.
“Our biggest recommendation is just to let it be, let the wildlife stay wild,” Heaton Jolley said. “You do not have to feed them; they can even find food. If it looks sick or injured, report it of course, but otherwise we just ask people to leave them alone. ”
If you find a sick or injured wild animal, the wildlife department recommends that you contact an authorized Utah wildlife rehabilitator. You can find a list here: https://wildlife.utah.gov/rehabilitators.html