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'No need for concern': Maine biologists watching studies elsewhere of SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer

Maine officials say they have not tracked any cases of a hunter contracting the respiratory disease that causes COVID-19 from the deer.

BANGOR, Maine — Hundreds of white-tailed deer in Iowa have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the respiratory disease that causes COVID-19, according to a new study.

It's believed the animals contracted the virus from humans and are spreading it among each other. But Maine officials said they have not yet tracked a case of a Maine hunter contracting the disease from deer.

“This is just another wrinkle for us to keep in the back of our minds and keep track of as developments unfold,” white-tailed deer biologist Nathan Bieber of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said. 

One-third of white-tailed deer sampled in Iowa between September 2020 and January 2021 were found to have SARS-CoV-2, the study states.

Maine IF&W said it is not actively studying COVID-19 in deer but it's monitoring studies in other states. 

RELATED: $3K reward being offered for information about dead deer left to rot in Maine field

“It’s possible that Maine deer have COVID antibodies or the virus," Bieber said. “We are not aware of any particular need for concern yet. There is no documented case of a hunter or any other person contracting COVID from a deer that either got the antibodies or the virus.” 

Despite this, Bieber encourages Maine hunters to take precautions when processing wild game. He recommends wearing gloves. For extra protection, Bieber said hunters could even wear a mask if they're near the respiratory tract of a white tailed-deer. 

"We always advocate safely handling meat and cooking it thoroughly and cleaning your utensils [after processing an animal]," Bieber recommended. 

RELATED: Widespread COVID-19 infection detected in white-tailed deer in Iowa, study shows