White-tailed deer appear to be susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Hunters are being asked to take additional precautions when handling wild game.
COVID-19 remains a disease that is primarily spread from human-to-human. Based on currently available information, the risk of transmission from cervids or other animals to people is considered to be low. There is no evidence to suggest that people can get COVID-19 by eating wild game meat from animals infected with SARS-CoV-2.
As a precaution, hunters are advised to practice routine hygiene protocols when handling wild game, including wearing a well-fitting mask, gloves and washing their hands after field dressing.
To further reduce risk of potential exposure:
- When handling a white-tailed deer carcass, due to unknown SARS-CoV-2 status, it is recommended to take care when handling organs of the respiratory tract including the lungs, trachea (windpipe), mouth and nasal cavity.
- The same guidelines to reduce human-to-human transmission are recommended including:
- Wearing a mask when handling the deer;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Scrub for 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty and hand washing isn't available. Only use hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada (DIN or NPN number).
- Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, and eyes.
- It is recommended to field dress, quarter, and debone your carcass in a well-ventilated space, such as outdoors or in an open air shed or garage, to lower potential risk of exposure to airborne virus particles.
- The COVID-19 virus can survive for several days on different surfaces and objects. Frequent and proper cleaning and disinfection is important to prevent spread of the disease.
- When finished working, clean work surfaces with soap and water and wipe away any dirt or debris, then disinfect with an appropriate disinfectant.
- Disinfectants should have a DIN and be used per label instructions (note required concentration and contact time). Most household disinfectants are effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Visibly soiled surfaces must be cleaned before disinfecting.
- A bleach-water solution is an effective disinfectant. Prepare a diluted bleach solution according to instructions on the label or, if using bleach that has a concentration of 5% hypochlorite, add 5 mL (one teaspoon) of bleach in 250 mL (one cup) of water. Be sure to prepare the solution fresh, when you are intending to use it, and only dilute bleach in water (and not with additional chemicals or soap).
- Vaccination remains the best means of reducing the risk of transmission to humans.
- For immunocompromised individuals and those at greater risk (i.e. unvaccinated), avoiding carcass handling or having assistance with carcass handling may be considered.
Individuals involved in close contact with live cervids, particularly in contexts such as wildlife rehabilitation or wildlife research, are advised to wear masks as a precautionary measure.
For additional guidance on SARS-CoV-2 and wildlife health, please visit:
Saskatchewan prevention basics: