Researchers at the University of Illinois are asking adults in Illinois to complete an online survey about their experiences with wild white-tailed deer. The survey is part of a larger effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to study wild deer in relation to the prevalence and transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 in people.
“We know that people can share diseases with wildlife, like wild deer, but we don’t always know how those diseases move back and forth,” said Dr. Rebecca Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
“What we’re interested in learning is how many and which people interact with deer, in what way, where, and how often,” she said. “We are asking for adults age 18 and above to participate in an online survey so we can learn about the experiences—if any—that the general public has had with wild white-tailed deer in Illinois.”
The online survey may help researchers glean useful information about public health and disease transmission beyond the implications for the COVID-19 virus.
“The main purpose of this research is to understand how SARS-CoV-2 could possibly have spilled into the wild deer population, but what we find could help us understand much more about human-wildlife interactions and how they might influence disease spread,” said Dr. Smith.