In the northeast of the nation, a recent federal survey found neutralizing antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 in 40 percent of all white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) that were sampled.
It's the first evidence of widespread exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in wild animals, and while the preprint study still needs to be verified and peer-reviewed, the findings are cause for concern.
These free-ranging animals will need to be tested for viral RNA if we want to be absolutely sure that they are providing a reservoir for the novel coronavirus, but the presence of antibodies in their blood suggests they have somehow been exposed.
The team had access to 385 wild white-tailed deer serum samples from January to March 2021, as well as 239 archived samples from 2011 to 2020, which they tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.
Within the first three months of this year, however, nearly half of all 385 blood samples taken from deer in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York showed the same neutralizing antibodies.
It could have jumped directly from humans, or it could have been passed from livestock or wild animals that came into contact with us, and then onto white-tailed deer.