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Animal Diseases

COVID-19 and White-tailed Deer

Recent studies by USDA found that white-tailed deer may carry COVID-19 antibodies (an indication they had been exposed to the virus) or may carry the virus itself. Work in New York found 18% of samples collected here had SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19) antibodies. Field samples were collected opportunistically, so may not accurately reflect overall exposure rates in free-ranging deer. It is not known how free-ranging deer were exposed to the virus, but it is speculated that it could have been through people, the environment, other deer, or another animal species.

There is no evidence that animals, including deer, are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19, and based on existing evidence the risk to people from animals is low. Most people will not come into direct contact with wildlife and "best practices" for interacting with wildlife that existed pre-COVID still apply - if you care, leave it there. If wildlife is injured or trapped in a place it should not be, contact a regional wildlife office, wildlife rehabilitator, or nuisance wildlife control operator.

Continuing to follow "best practices" is also true for hunters and trappers who may harvest deer or other game. Wear gloves when field dressing and processing game, and carefully wash hands and disinfect equipment afterwards. Hunters and trappers should also consider wearing a facemask when field dressing or processing game.

People like wildlife rehabilitators and captive deer owners who come in to direct contact with wild or captive deer should limit contact when and where possible and follow proper biosecurity procedures when direct contact needs to occur such as wearing gloves and a facemask, thoroughly washing hands before and after contact, and properly disinfecting equipment.

For more information visit these websites (all leave DEC website):

Songbird Illness Update - Summer 2021

An unknown illness that is affecting young songbirds (grackles, blue jays, robins and starlings) in states to the south and west of New York has been receiving a lot of interest. DEC is actively examining potential cases reported by the public. To date there is no evidence of bird mortality in New York due to this illness. As the disease begins to decline elsewhere we anticipate it will not become a factor affecting birds in the state. We will remain diligent in monitoring our bird populations for signs of the disease and continue to stay informed on the status of the disease in other eastern states.

For the latest songbird illness updates, visit these webpages (leaves DEC website):

New York State Wildlife Health Program

The New York State Cooperative Wildlife Health Program (WHP) is a partnership between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Bureau of Wildlife and Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (leaves DEC website) that works to safeguard the long-term health of the wildlife populations of New York.

Wildlife Diseases

Information on several wildlife diseases can be found in the left column. Additional wildlife disease fact sheets (leaves DEC website) can be found on the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab webpage. They were developed by the New York State Cooperative Wildlife Health Program. These fact sheets may be downloaded as PDFs.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a fatal virus that affects rabbits and hares. A new strain, RHDV2, was identified in 2010. In 2020, RHDV2 jumped to wild rabbits and hares in the southwestern U.S., where it spread to six states within four months. It can infect wild rabbits and hares in addition to domestic rabbits. RHDV2 is extremely hardy, easily transmitted, and highly lethal to rabbits and hares. The most likely routes of introduction to New York are through transported domestic rabbits, internationally imported rabbit products, or people who travel to outbreak areas in the Southwest. Read the RHDV2 factsheet (PDF) to learn more about how it spreads, ways to prevent it, and what you can do to help.


More about Animal Diseases:

  • Aspergillosis - The causes, symptoms, diagnosis and prevention of the wildlife disease Aspergillosis.
  • Brain Worm - Review the life cycle, symptoms, diagnosis, and management implications of the parasitic brain worm inflicting New York's moose.
  • Chronic Wasting Disease - Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a rare, fatal, neurological disease found in cervids, members of the deer family.
  • Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease - Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that is transmitted by biting midges.
  • House Finch Conjunctivitis - The symptoms and treatment of the disease House Finch Conjuntivitis
  • Trichomoniasis - A description of the disease of doves and pidgeons, Trichomoniasis. Includes symptoms, mode of tranmission, how to diagnose and threats to other species.
  • White-nose Syndrome - Bat biologists across the country are evaluating strategies to monitor the presence of this disease and collect specimens for laboratory analysis.
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    Albany, NY 12233-4750
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