Skip to main content

Idaho Fish and Game

Collect a Sample for CWD Testing

Hunters can choose to collect and submit chronic wasting disease samples on their own or take a harvested animal to a regional office or check station for testing.

Collecting a lymph node sample

  • STEP 1: Request a CWD sample kit prior to your hunt.
  • STEP 2: Age your harvested animal as a fawn/calf, yearling or adult.
  • STEP 3: Collect a lymph node sample. With the head upside down, cut across the neck and behind the jawbone. Continue cutting through the windpipe until you hit bone.
  • STEP 4: Pull back the windpipe and cut the muscles towards the base of the skull. Locate the left and right lymph nodes, halfway between each angle of the jaw bone and the base of the skull and beneath the opening to the mouth. Lymph node consistency is much firmer and rounder than the surrounding tissue. See diagram.
  • STEP 5: Remove each left and right lymph node and remove excess fat and connective tissue. Lymph nodes will be light or grayish color, or could be red if bloodshot. They are roughly the size of the tip of your finger, and if you cut them in half, you can see marbled coloring.
  • STEP 6: Avoid the salivary glands, which are found next to the lymph nodes and are more segmented. Salivary glands are not a CWD testable sample tissue.

Preparing a sample kit

  1. Prepare your sample kit.
  2. Remove card from the bag and fill out the label on the sample bag using a ballpoint pen to prevent smearing. 
  3. Complete the information on the sample bag with as many details as possible. Your name, tag number, deer species, animal age, and harvest location are all extremely important in order for us to use your sample. Be sure to write legibly to ensure accurate information.
  4. Find the loose bar code sticker and place it on the sample kit card. Keep the card in a place where you can refer to it when it's time to check results.
  5. Take the sample to a designated drop-off location for testing. If your sample comes back positive for CWD, Idaho Fish and Game will contact you directly.
  6. Check your results at a later date (approximately 4-6 weeks).

If you have questions regarding CWD sample collection, please email the Wildlife Health Lab or contact an Idaho Fish and Game regional office.