Close-ups with animals that could potentially carry SARS-Cov-2

Would it be possible for all new iNaturalist users and known younger users to be sent an email warning against doing close-up photos with animals that could potentially be carrying SARS-Cov-2 during the pandemic The reason I ask is I have seen close-ups by school age children of deer mice - dead and alive. I have also seen many close-ups of dead mink in Europe, living horseshoe bats in Sourh Africa (above someone’s bed in an attic) and other images that made me wonder - what if that person either picks up or gives covid to or from that animal during the attempt to photograph - eg - handling without gloves or not wearing a mask? Maybe a friendly PSA on the danger of this behavior is warranted? Thank you for respecting my maternal instinct here :)

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It’s always a good rule to not handle wildlife unless one knows what they’re doing. But for any one iNat user handling wildlife, there are millions of non-iNat users doing the same. I don’t think one can protect or warn everyone about everything. COVID would be the least concern when handling wildlife–there are other pathogens of greater concern (ranging from Salmonella from handling turtles to rabies from racoons, bites from venomous creatures, and histoplasmosis from the chicken coop). Going to school or the movies is much riskier for getting COVID than from being close to wildlife.

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Thank you, @angelique_k, for expressing your concern for people’s well-being, which may help animals, too. We respect that you want to help stem the spread of pandemic. Even if iNat staff cannot accommodate your request, we want to acknowledge your intent to emphasize safety. Also, welcome to the Forum!

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i suppose you can always leave a comment, though in the case of the bats im not sure how much good it would do. its one thing to advise children to be cautious around certain animals, but when theyre also living in your living space, well… thats a lot harder than just not touching the dead mouse or mink. but anyway, a lot of people have copy-paste comments for helping newbies understand how to use inaturalist for example, so a warning like that might not be as convenient or quick to be delivered as an auto-response, but its something anyone can do.

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There’s a large need for awareness around bat handling in particular (article here). Live and dead bats have been handled in every pathogen spillover continent/region (Asia, Africa, Europe, etc). And to some extent going into caves in spillover zones itself has risks. One small thing that could potentially be done is set cave observation-coordinates to obscured, although coord. could be kept visible to project admin for research purposes.

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There are also risks of spreading from people to animals, or back and forth reciprocally, involving new variants. It may be a larger risk than most other pathogens, although difficult to compare them, but isn’t a negligible risk. I agree that many people are also handling/using such animals outside of iNat too. It’s not an issue exclusive to or originating from iNat. Although more education/information (in some way) would be ideal in as many places as possible, even if it can’t be part of the site’s official advising.

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Not to mention domestic animals and pets.

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There are worse things than covid carried by handling animals especially carcasses. An excellent and otherwise healthy field biologist I once knew was quickly killed when he caught pneumonic plague from a mountain lion corpse he was examining.
I don’t think iNat can reasonably warn users about every risk out there but yes this is a big concern.

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Are animals affected an any serious way by Covid-19? I think it would just be a general rule to try not to be close to animals if either you or the animal is sick (aside qualified people assisting the animals).

If Covid is transmissible to animals I would assume so are other coronaviruses in general. I can’t find any specific published study going into details, just one unpublished study (about cats, dogs and minks getting it) and some general guidance from the CDC, which is not the pinnacle of accuracy…s

Various reports of animals in zoos getting COVID (from visitors or staff?)
Domestic cats and dogs have also been reported as infected BY people, but not infecting people.

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A couple of studies indicate that many White-tailed Deer in Michigan and Iowa have developed antibodies to COVID-19. Mink, deer, dogs, pangolins, bats, tigers and snow leopards, gorillas – the diversity of species known to get it suggest that all or most mammals might carry it. Plus we can share other pathogens with vertebrates. Using gloves or another barrier (plastic bags will do) when handling dead or sick animals, avoiding them, or at very least washing hands well afterwards are all good idea, always. Most people know this, especially most people who interact much with wildlife, so I would hesitate to warn people on iNaturalist to do it.

Also, we’re far, far more likely to get COVID from fellow humans than from other species. Vaccination and masking when around humans will be much more effective at protecting us.

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Bat biologists in North America have been using PPE or avoiding contact completely with wild bats since the pandemic began. This requirement has been incorporated in many state/province-issued permits for research. The concern is that the virus might be transmitted from humans to bats, creating a possible reservoir for the disease in native bat species.

Mustelids in general seem to be prone to acquiring respiratory diseases from humans. Tighter requirements have been implemented by many researchers working on Black-footed Ferret to prevent possible infection of that endangered species, either in captive breeding facilities or wild populations.

The discovery of Covid antibodies in white-tailed deer is a recent development that shows that wild animals might indeed become a reservoir for this disease.

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Yes. In fact, this thread made me wonder about MERS. The current preponderance of evidence is that MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) came from domestic dromedary camels.

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one thing I learned is that virus does not jump from bats to human as we all think, it does not get by touch, or something, I am still saying not to handle wild animals by bare hands, use gloves instead, if it is necessary, and also situation for bats have gotten worse, people in our area are in so much terror that some of them shoot bats with hand guns, which is worst, So I think we should educate people about bats and there rescue, I think everyone shoild learn to rescue to bats, not because as a game but because there are not wildlife teams everywhere, like in my area

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Do we even have numbers on how many humans have gotten COVID-19 from an infected animal, wild or domesticated? Seems we have stories about animals receiving them from humans (dogs, cats, zoo animals as mentioned earlier) but I can’t say I’ve ever heard a story about humans getting COVID-19 from animals

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I don’t think there any confirmed cases of this happening. Also, I don’t think there have been any proven cases of animals dying from Covid.

Three Snow Leopards died of COVID in Nebraska.

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What zoo/private collection was that at?

The Snow Leopards died at Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Two tigers also tested positive but survived. There are several news articles about it.

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Mink-to-human transmission of Covid has been documented:
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2021.663815/full

I suspect that the potential for such transmission isn’t limited to that species.

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