Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Program

UPDATE: Expanding surveillance area! The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW’s) chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program is expanding to include Game Management Units (GMUs) throughout the Department’s Region 1, which covers Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman counties (see map below for GMUs within the region where animals will be accepted for testing). Department staff are collecting samples year-round and testing adult (approximately one year old or older) deer and elk. WDFW will continue to test any cervid statewide if it is showing clinical signs consistent with CWD.

A map of GMUs where cervids are tested for CWD
Region 1 GMUs where cervids will be accepted for testing

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurologic illness of cervids, which include deer, elk, moose, and caribou. CWD is caused by an infectious prion protein and transmitted from animal to animal or through contaminated environments. Most animals with CWD appear normal until the end stages of the disease when they show signs of weight loss, lethargy, drooping ears, excessive salivation and urination, and loss of fear of people. There is no cure for CWD.

As of summer 2022, CWD has not been detected in Washington, but has been detected in 30 states and four Canadian Provinces. Testing tissue samples collected from the head and neck of carcasses is the only way to determine if an animal is infected with CWD.

CWD sampling locations and times

If you harvest or salvage an adult (approximately one year old or older) deer or elk in Region 1 (see map above for GMUs within the region where animals will be accepted for testing), you can have your animal tested for CWD free using one of the following methods.

Note: The tissues needed are in the head and neck. Please save the head with two to three-inches of neck attached.

By visiting a hunter check station

Check stations are typically operated during the general modern deer seasons, but times and locations are subject to change. If you have traveled to Region 1 to hunt, please have your deer or elk tested prior to leaving the region if possible.

A list of hunter check stations

By appointment at a WDFW facility

Please fill out the CWD Sampling Appointment Form to have your deer or elk tested for CWD.

By appointment at Inland Northwest Wildlife Council (INWC)

Please call 509-487-8552 to arrange to have your deer or elk tested by INWC at 6116 N Market Street, Spokane, WA 99208.

By self-submission via mail-in option

Note: Please carefully read and follow the instructions for self-submission. Samples submitted without all requested information or improperly packaged will not be tested. If you have questions, email CWD@dfw.wa.gov.

  1. Collect the lymph nodes for CWD testing and a front incisor tooth for aging- Watch the videos below to learn how to collect lymph nodes and teeth from your harvested or salvaged deer or elk. If you are unable to collect a tooth for aging, please still submit the lymph nodes for CWD testing. If you are only able to collect one lymph node for CWD testing, please still submit that sample.
  1. Put the lymph nodes and teeth in sealed plastic bags – Double bag the lymph nodes and tooth (wrap tooth in a paper towel) in a resealable plastic bag with paper towels between the sample bag and outer bag to absorb leakage. If submitting samples from multiple animals in one shipment, make sure to put the correct lymph nodes and teeth of one animal together into a bag and properly label following step 3.
  2. Label your samples and provide additional information – Please label the outer bag with your name and phone number. Include the following information on paper (consider typing and printing for legibility) and put this information in a separate sealed plastic bag:
    • First and Last name of hunter or roadkill salvager
    • Hunter’s WILD ID if harvested or Salvage Permit Number if salvaged
    • Phone number
    • Date of harvest or salvage
    • Species: White-tailed deer, mule deer, or elk (not accepting moose at this time)
    • Sex of animal
    • If male, the number of antler points on the left and right antlers
  3. Location of harvest or salvage – Please provide a precise location of where the animal was harvested or salvaged. This will help WDFW track and manage the disease if it shows up in Washington. A GPS location with latitude and longitude or universal translocator mercators (UTMs) is preferred, but GMU with nearest road, intersection, or drainage name will be accepted, OR county with road name and mile marker number if salvaged.
  4. Ship your samples – Keep samples refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to ship them. Place sample bags and additional printed information in a leak-proof, padded envelope or box using a 1- to 2-day mail service – mail services will not accept smelly or soiled packages. Do not freeze water in a plastic bag to use as a cold pack. It will leak, and carriers may not deliver a leaking package. 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.

Send to or drop off your samples at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, ATTN: CWD, 2315 N. Discovery Pl., Spokane Valley, WA 99216 (If you do not put “ATTN: CWD”, we will not know this is a CWD sample and it may not be stored properly, making it untestable). If dropping off samples, please only do so during office hours when staff can physically take the sample from you. Do Not leave samples on premises unattended.

Find your CWD test results

You can look up your CWD test results by entering your WILD ID or Salvage Permit ID in the test results lookup tool. Samples are shipped to Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) and take on average 3-4 weeks to receive results. Please be patient as WADDL has experienced supply-chain delays and test results may take longer than expected.

Help prevent the spread of CWD

To prevent spreading prions that cause CWD, avoid disposing of carcass parts on the landscape in a different location from where the animal was harvested. WDFW recommends either field dressing and leaving all inedible parts of your harvested animal at the kill site or dispose of inedible parts by double bagging and placing them in your household garbage.

If you harvest deer, elk, moose, or caribou outside Washington, by law (WAC 220-413-030), only the following items may be imported to Washington:

  • Meat that has been de-boned in the state or province where it was harvested
  • Skulls and antlers (with velvet removed), antlers attached to the skull plate, or upper canine teeth (bugler, whistlers, ivories) from which all soft tissue has been removed
  • Hides or capes without heads attached
  • Tissue imported for use by a diagnostic or research laboratory
  • Finished taxidermy mounts

If you are notified by another state or provincial fish and wildlife agency that the animal you harvested tested positive for CWD, you have 24 hours to notify WDFW by calling 360-902-2515 or emailing CWD@dfw.wa.gov.

Health and human safety

While there is no scientific evidence of CWD being transmitted to humans from animals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not consuming animals that test positive for CWD. WDFW advises hunters to:

  • Avoid harvesting any animal that appears sick or behaves strangely.
  • Wear disposable gloves while field dressing game.
  • Thoroughly wash hands and equipment after processing carcasses.
  • Avoid consuming parts where the CWD prions accumulate including brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, pancreas, tonsils, and lymph nodes.
  • Avoid cutting through bone, brain, or spinal cord.
  • Disinfect processing tools by soaking in household bleach (>2% free chlorine ) at a 40% solution (with water) for a minimum of 5 minutes.
  • Remove any tissue or blood from tools before soaking. Rinse tools after soaking. 

Reporting suspected CWD cases

Please help monitor the health of our deer, elk, and moose populations. While hunting or recreating, if you observe a sick or dead animal, please report it using this online form