Deer hunting season is underway and the Illinois Department of Natural Resource (IDNR) reminds deer hunters there are locations where deer can be tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD) for free during the current hunting season.

Chronic wasting disease affects the central nervous system in deer and elk and is fatal. It was first detected in a suspected adult female deer from northwest Boone County in 2002. Since then, 162,099 wild deer have been sampled statewide and 1,752 individual deer tested positive for CWD. Currently, the disease is confined to a 19-county area in the northern third of Illinois.

Between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, the IDNR’s wildlife disease program found 369 CWD-positive deer in 18 Illinois counties, including Boone, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, Grundy, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Will and Winnebago. That number is 21% of the cases reccorded since 2002.

Wildlife biologists monitor the geographic distribution and intensity of CWD primarily by testing hunter-harvested deer. CWD disease is not transmissible to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend eating CWD-positive venison, or deer meat.

Hunters can visit participating vendors, including taxidermists and meat processors, or drop deer heads at self-serve drop-off sites. Click here for a list of CWD sampling sites, including sites in Henry, Jo Daviess and Whiteside counties. Click here for a map of sampling stations statewide. Hunters can also use the IDNR’s Hunt Illinois app.

Hunters in counties with cases of CDW are strongly encouraged to have their deer tested. Hunters who plan to have their deer mounted can have a participating taxidermist collect the sample. The testing procedures will not damage the deer skull. Hunters who are not using a participating taxidermist can bring the caped-out head to an IDNR sample drop-off barrel location.

Firearm deer hunters in counties with cases of CDW can get a voluntary sample taken by a biologist when they bring deer to mandatory physical check stations during the regular 2023 firearm seasons November 17-19 and November 30-December 3. Click here for a map of check stations. Hunters in non-CWD counties can use sample drop-off barrels or sampling vendors to submit samples.

Hunters can click here to see the results of their CWD tests. Hunters will be contacted by an IDNR wildlife biologist if their deer tests positive for CWD.

Click here for more information on DWD sampling and a list of frequently asked questions.