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Surveillance for Coronaviruses in Wildlife

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Article by:
Laura McMahon, Communications Manager, British Deer Society

Surveillance for coronaviruses in wildlife

The British Deer Society is asking its members and supporters to assist  with a surveillance study looking into coronaviruses in wildlife. This study aims to support the development of diagnostic tests, aid future surveillance, and improve preparedness for future coronavirus outbreaks.

What is the purpose of this study?

The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) is conducting surveillance for coronaviruses in UK wildlife. This includes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans but which can also be spread to some animals.

Broadly, the project is looking to better understand the transmission risks of coronaviruses amongst people, domestic animals, and wildlife. It will support the development of diagnostic tests, aid future surveillance, and improve preparedness for future coronavirus outbreaks.

APHA’s aim is to collect throat-nasal swabs and/or blood samples from wild mammals in the UK, which will be tested for evidence of coronaviruses. APHA are looking for volunteers (e.g., wildlife managers, and deer stalkers) who would be able to collect samples while handling wildlife in the course of their work.

The results will be compiled in a study summary report following completion of the project and may also be published in peer-reviewed publications and presented at relevant conferences.

The research is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and by the One Health European Joint Project entitled ‘SARS-CoV-2 Research Integration and preparedness (COVRIN).

The COVRIN project is being led by Wageningen Bioveterinary Research in the Netherlands and the University of Surrey, with contributions from nineteen other partners including the UK Animal & Plant Health Agency.

The study is being conducted between March 2021 and March 2025.

What is involved?

The study is dependent on samples collected by volunteers (e.g., wildlife managers, and deer stalkers) handling wildlife in the course of their work. There are several mammal species that the study is particularly interested in getting samples from,  cervids (deer), canids (e.g., foxes) and mustelids (e.g., American mink).

Volunteers will be asked to take a throat nasal swab and/or a blood sample from deceased animals as part of their routine management activities. They must ensure that the animal is deceased before taking any samples.

It is important to avoid contamination of samples by following the instructions in the collection kit provided. Anyone who believes that they may be Covid positive at the time is asked not to take samples.

Volunteers will be provided with all necessary equipment and will be asked to record basic information about the animal such as species, sex, approximate age, and location. Personal information and specific locations will not be shared; geographical region of sampling may be used for reporting purposes. Prepaid, addressed envelopes are provided so that samples can be posted to the research team via any Royal Mail post box.

Why take part?

The samples that volunteers collect will be vital to the success of the project. However, there is no obligation to take part in the surveillance work. Please be aware there is no payment for providing samples, and volunteers are free to cease participation at any time.

Given the obvious value and importance of this project, BDS feels sure many of you will wish to take part.

Who To Contact

If you would like more information, have any questions, or would like to request collection kits then please get in touch using the email address:

APHA very much appreciate your participation in this important study.

Download Information Sheet


If you share our passion for deer and deer welfare, you can support our work by: 

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