First case of SARS-CoV-2 detected in Canadian wildlife

News release

December 1, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario

The Government of Canada continues to take strong, immediate, and effective action to protect Canadians from the impacts of COVID-19. New information on the virus emerges every day. Scientists in Canada and around the world are working hard to better understand the virus and its impacts on people, communities, and animals.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Parks Canada, provincial and territorial governments, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), and academic partners have been proactively engaged in research to investigate whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has spilled into wildlife.

While there is limited information on animals and COVID-19, the virus has infected multiple species of animals globally, including farmed mink, companion animals (e.g., cats, dogs, ferrets), and zoo animals (e.g., tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters, and others). Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time.

On November 29, 2021, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (CFIA) confirmed the first detections of SARS-CoV-2 in three free-ranging white-tailed deer in Canada. These deer were sampled between November 6 to 8, 2021, in the Estrie region of Quebec. Samples for SARS-CoV-2 were collected through a big game registration station in southern Quebec. Similar to findings in the United States, the deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease, and were all apparently healthy. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was notified on December 1, 2021.

As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited. This finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.

Federal, provincial and territorial partners continue to monitor and assess the potential implications of the virus on Canadian wildlife.

COVID-19 remains largely a disease of human concern and typically spreads from human to human. Adhering to public health advice and getting fully vaccinated are key ways to protect against COVID-19. Until more is known and as an added precaution, it is recommended that you wear a well-fitting mask when exposed to respiratory tissues and fluids from deer, practice good hand hygiene, and avoid splashing/spraying fluids from these tissues as much as possible.

Additional information is available on exposure and transmission of COVID-19 in various wildlife species can be found at Animals and COVID-19.

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Gabriel Brunet
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

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