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.
Learn how to collect the obex (brainstem) for moose or animals where the retropharyngeal lymph nodes are unavailable:
CWD Sampling by Mississippi Wildlife, Fish & Parks
CWD Sampling for Hunters by Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
These free events will provide hands-on training for hunters:
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.
Results will be posted online and emailed to the hunter within two weeks.
If you did not provide a contact email when submitting your CWD sample, we will only contact you by phone if your sample comes back as “SUSPECT” or “POSITIVE”.
If you received a “suspect” or “positive” test result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you do not eat the meat. With a CWD suspect or positive test result, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks authorizes the disposal of the meat, and asks that you ensure all carcass waste (meat, bones, trimmings, hide, etc) is disposed of in a landfill. If you have already sent your animal to a commercial processor or donated it to a foodbank, please contact the Wildlife Health Lab at: 406-577-7883, 406-577-7895, or 406-577-7881 so that we may follow up with the processor and/or recipient of the meat. If you choose not to consume the meat and wish to request a new license for this year or next year, please call your local FWP Regional Office or the Licensing Call Center (406-444-2950) to coordinate the next steps. You will have to properly dispose of all remaining parts in a landfill, and turn in any antlers associated with your harvest, if you request a replacement license.
To submit a sample via mail to the FWP Lab, take the following steps:
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.
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.
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.
If you plan to mail the samples directly to our Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman, please follow the instructions below.
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.
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.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
ATTN: Wildlife Health Lab (CWD)
1400 S. 19th Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59718
NOTE: There is no cost for the test.
To submit a sample at an FWP regional office or CWD Sampling Station, bring the following items when you submit your head for testing:
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.
Location of Harvest: GPS coordinates (Lat/Long or Township/Range/Section) of where you harvested your animal.