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Tagged deer. Photo by USDA-APHIS

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. There has been widespread detection of SARS-CoV-2 in North American deer but how so many deer became infected and factors that might lead to persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in deer are unclear. We are conducting coordinated, targeted surveillance in deer populations across the USA to identify risk factors of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and persistence. Our approach includes repeated testing for SARS-CoV-2 of the same numerous deer populations while tracking deer movements. Our surveillance design is paired with advanced analytics to understand risk factors of SARS-CoV-2 in North American deer. Our surveillance system can also be leveraged to understand drivers of transmission and persistence of other deer diseases such as chronic wasting disease.

Mule deer. Photo by UDSA-APHIS

Disease Ecology

What ecological factors make it more or less likely for SARS-CoV-2 to transmit a little versus a lot in deer populations?

Animal Movement

How does deer movement affect SARS-CoV-2 spillover from humans and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in deer populations? Where and how might deer become infected? Is SARS-CoV-2 infection affecting deer movement?

Deer moving across a landscape. Photo by USDA-APHIS
Deer helicopter captures. Photo by USDA-APHIS

Surveillance Design

What information is most important for early detection and accurate risk assessment of new diseases in free-ranging deer? How do we gather that information most efficiently?


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