GRAND PORTAGE : To administer this COVID test, Todd Kautz had to lay on his belly in the snow and worm his upper body into the narrow den of a hibernating black bear.
Training a light on its snout, Kautz carefully slipped a long cotton swab into the bear’s nostrils five times. For postdoctoral researcher Kautz and a team of other wildlife experts, tracking the coronavirus means freezing temperatures, icy roads, trudging through deep snow and getting uncomfortably close to potentially dangerous wildlife.
They’re testing bears, moose, deer and wolves on a Native American reservation in the remote north woods about 5 miles from Canada.
Like researchers around the world, they are trying to figure out how, how much and where wildlife is spreading the virus. Scientists are concerned that the virus could evolve within animal populations – potentially spawning dangerous viral mutants that could jump back to people, spread among us and reignite what for now seems to some people like a waning crisis.