Into the wild: tracking COVID in wildlife

GRAND PORTAGE, Minn. (AP) — Wildlife experts are searching for the virus that causes COVID-19 in deer, bears, moose and wolves in Minnesota’s north woods. They are among researchers around the world trying to figure out how and where wildlife is spreading the coronavirus at a time when international health agencies are calling for greater tracking of infected animals. Scientists are deeply concerned that the virus could evolve within animal populations – potentially spawning mutations that could jump back to people, spread among us and reignite what seems like a waning pandemic. They point out the virus has already leaped from humans to animals and back again.

In an interview with Associated Press, Seth Moore, a wildlife biologist said, “We just recently began this project, looking at COVID in wildlife as a potential reservoir for wildlife [to] human transmission.”

Moore’s team tags the animals, taking blood samples and COVID nasal swabs before releasing them back into the wild. “We’ve collected these wildlife COVID samples and we’re going to send them to the University of Minnesota,” said Moore. The interest for researchers is to identify whether or not animals are carrying COVID and potentially passing it back to humans. Moore went on to explain,”Human, animal, and ecosystem health are really intrinsically connected.”