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Herd of deer in field

Chronic Wasting Disease Get Your Animal Sampled

Hunters in Montana can have their deer, elk, or moose tested for chronic wasting disease with the help of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. FWP is paying for the testing of samples. CWD sampling is voluntary. In Priority Surveillance Areas, sampling is strongly encouraged to help FWP gather additional data to inform management.

Hunters can either take the samples themselves, fill out the online hunter submission form and mail them to our Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman, or they can bring the animal (or head) to an FWP regional office or CWD Sampling Station. Hunters who visit a regional office should be prepared to experience wait times during busy hours. Check with your regional office for optimal times, but in general regional offices will be able to take samples during normal business hours. Outside of the general deer and elk season, please call your regional office ahead of time to schedule a time to have your animal sampled.

The video below demonstrates how to extract the retropharyngeal lymph nodes for sampling.
 

 

For a video showing how to collect the obex (brainstem) for moose or animals where the retropharyngeal lymph nodes are unavailable, click on one of these links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvQmTD0fSqE [youtube.com]   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxxTjaVS4v8 [gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com]

 

How do you test for CWD?

To determine whether an animal is infected, a certified CWD-testing diagnostic laboratory must test an animal’s retropharyngeal lymph nodes or brainstem for evidence of CWD. These samples can only be collected from dead animals. Unfortunately, there are no non-invasive CWD tests for live animals. Meat cannot be tested for CWD.

How long will it take for me to find out if my animal has CWD?

Results will be posted online and emailed to the hunter within two weeks.

What happens if my harvested animal tests positive for CWD?

Hunters may request a replacement license if their animal tests CWD-positive, however, the hunter must surrender their entire animal, including the head. No replacement licenses for subsequent seasons will be issued.

How can a hunter submit their own sample?

CWD Self-submission Guide

To submit a sample via mail to the FWP Lab, take the following steps:

  1. Collect the lymph nodes:
    Please download the printable Lymph Node Extraction Instruction Sheet and/or watch the video above for a demonstration.
    **Only the lymph nodes are necessary for testing deer and elk. Extraction can easily be performed with a field knife. If you have a moose, please visit one of the CWD sampling locations or a regional headquarters office for assistance with collecting the brainstem and lymph nodes.

  2. Put the lymph nodes in sealed plastic bag:
    Ziplock bags or a similar brand work best. Double bag the sample and wrap it in a paper towel.

  3. If you want to collect your own samples and drop them off at a CWD Sampling Location to be shipped, please visit your sampling location of choice where staff will take your sample and collect accompanying data from you at that time, including the latitude and longitude of your harvest location, species, age, sex, and your contact information. You will be issued a CWD ID# at that time.

  4. If you plan to mail the samples directly to our Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman, please follow the instructions below.

  5. Please fill out the Online Hunter Harvest Submission Form and follow the associated directions for labeling your samples. Your samples must be bagged and labeled to be testable. Please consider adding your name and phone number on the outside of the sample bag, too. You will receive an email that confirms your submission and assigns a unique CWD number that will be used to track your test results. Results will be available online within 3 weeks. Be sure to record the location of harvest as accurately as possible. Samples without location information will not be tested. Samples without location information will not be tested.

  6. Shipment:
    Place the bagged samples, a cold ice pack, and the bagged submission form(s) in a small box or shipping envelope and send via your choice of postal carrier. Do not freeze water in a Ziplock bag to use as a cold pack. It will leak and carriers may not deliver a leaking package. We recommend using a carrier that will deliver your samples within 24-48 hours to prevent the samples from rotting. Please try to ship your samples on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of each week, and avoid shipping on holidays, to prevent the samples from sitting over the weekend.

  7. Send to:

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
ATTN: Wildlife Health Lab (CWD)
1400 S. 19th Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59718

  1. There is no cost for the test.

Sampling Stations

To submit a sample at an FWP regional office or CWD Sampling Station, bring the following items when you submit your head for testing:

  1. Animal’s head: Leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.

  2. Location of Harvest: GPS coordinates (Lat/Long or Township/Range/Section) of where you harvested your animal.

If you are bringing samples to a regional office, please call ahead to schedule an appointment.

Region 1 (Northwest Montana)

Regional Headquarters

490 North Meridian Road
Kalispell, MT 59901

(406) 752-5501

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

 

Region 2 (Western Montana)

Regional Headquarters

3201 Spurgin Road
Missoula, MT 59804

(406) 542-5500

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

 

Region 3 (Southwest Montana)

Regional Headquarters

1400 South 19th
Bozeman, MT 59718

(406) 577-7900

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

 

Region 4 (Central Montana)

Regional Headquarters

4600 Giant Springs Road
Great Falls, MT 59405

(406) 454-5840

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

 

Region 5 (South central Montana)

Regional Headquarters

2300 Lake Elmo Drive
Billings, MT 59105

(406) 247-2940

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

 

Region 6 (Northeast Montana)

Regional Headquarters

1 Airport Rd
Glasgow, MT 59230

(406) 228-3700

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

 

Region 7 (Eastern Montana)

Regional Headquarters

352 I-94 Business Loop
Miles City, MT 59301

(406) 234-0900

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-5PM

Carcass Disposal

Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. Infected animals that are dead or alive can contribute to the spread of CWD. Scientists believe CWD prions likely spread between animals through body fluids like feces, saliva, blood, or urine, either through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, food or water.

Once introduced into an area, the CWD protein is contagious within deer and elk populations and can spread quickly. Experts believe CWD prions can remain in the environment for a long time, so other animals can contract CWD from the environment even after an infected deer or elk has died.

Proper carcass disposal is critical to protecting our herds. All carcass parts, such as brain, eyes, spleen, lymph glands, and spinal cord material, should be bagged and disposed of in a landfill or may be left at the kill site.

Protect our herds: properly dispose of carcasses.

View interactive map of CWD Carcass Disposal Sites 
Properly Dispose of CWD Carcasses bulletin