Sample Submission

The following are instructions for submitting specimens to NWDC laboratories.


Contact Dr. Walt Cottrell ( and/or your NWDC laboratory diagnostician to discuss the potential case, and determine whether submission is warranted.


Once a decision is made to send samples, complete the NWDC Specimen Submission Form for each animal or group of animals submitted.

sample submission form

Information from this form is used to compile a region-wide wildlife disease database; therefore, it is critical to complete all fields. A completed specimen history should include: the name, phone number (including area code), e-mail address, and mailing address of the finder; any observations of the behavior of the animal prior to death, details related to the carcass (e.g. dead in open field, dead under porch, found dead in dumpster), description of euthanasia technique if applicable, any details related to human or domestic animal contact with the specimen, your appraisal of the situation and/ or any testing requests beyond determining cause of death, and complete contact information for the submitter. In order to accurately map and track wildlife mortalities it is very important that precise location information is provided with the specimen including: GPS coordinates (Lat/Long in decimal degrees), street address, distance and direction from nearest cross street/landmark, Township, and County. If a group of carcasses of the same species are found in the same general location on the same day, one form will be adequate for submitted specimens. Once the form is completed, please print a copy to accompany the specimen being shipped or transported.


Contact your NWDC Laboratory staff before shipping or transporting any specimens to ensure proper handling and shipping, and to confirm that the laboratory is prepared to handle the case.

Specimens that will be shipped or transported to a NWDC lab within 48 hours should be kept refrigerated. Freezing and thawing damages tissues and can complicate microscopic evaluation and the isolation of some pathogens. Freezing is recommended if the specimen has many active maggots or if it cannot be delivered within 48 hours. During mass mortalities it is a good idea to freeze a subsample (3-12) of the freshest carcasses in case a toxicant is involved. General guidelines for specimen packaging, transport, and shipping. Potentially diseased carcasses need to be packaged to prevent the leaking of body fluids that may contaminate vehicles or coolers. At a minimum, carcasses the size of a raccoon, fox, or smaller should be individually bagged in two separate 3 or 4 mil plastic bags with the open end twisted and tied in a tight knot. Beaks, teeth, and claws will puncture the bags; tucking the beak of a bird under the wing or strategic positioning the feet prior to bagging may help alleviate bag punctures. Layers of newspaper or other absorbent paper will help prevent beak and claw punctures and will also absorb body fluids. Carcasses larger than fox or raccoon should be bagged in suitable sized 3 to 6 mil plastic bags with enough room to close the bag with twist and knot or twist and secure with duct tape. Large 4 X 8’ 6 mil bags should be used for all deer carcasses. Large bagged carcasses, or multiple bagged carcasses, should be transported in plastic tubs to contain any fluids from leaking bags. All bags will eventually leak, especially if the carcass is frozen, so use as many bags as necessary. A copy of the specimen submission form should be included in a separate plastic bag inside the box but outside of the specimen bag.

All shipped specimens need to be properly packaged to prevent leaks and should be shipped in a rigid plastic cooler; the cooler should be lined with a plastic bag and absorbent material (newspapers or absorbent pads), and re-usable ice packs or water frozen in sealed plastic bottles should be used to keep specimens cool. DO NOT SHIP ICE CUBES or loose ice. Frozen specimens typically do not need ice packs unless it weighs less than 2 lbs. The plastic cooler lid should be sealed/secured with packing tape and enclosed in a cardboard box (to avoid a UPS surcharge). On the outside of the box attach a UN3373 Biological Substance Category B label or download and print from the liink below. Please ship plastic coolers inside a cardboard box to avoid courier surcharges. 

Large specimens or specimens from mass mortality events can be delivered to your designated NWDC laboratory. Alert the lab that you are delivering a large specimen and give your estimated time of arrival. The specimens should be bagged and tagged as described above and transported in the blue plastic mortar mixing tubs. Moose are typically transported in an open bed pick-up truck or on a trailer. If possible, wrap the head in an absorbent pad and bag the head with a suitable sized bag and duct tape to contain leaking blood or rumen contents. In warmer months try to keep the head cool with ice packs and keep the carcass out of the sun.

Click on the icon below to download the package labels required for shipping biological specimens. Please review the shipping instructions and consult with your NWDC diagnostic lab before shipping specimens.


What Happens After a Specimen is Submitted? When a carcass is submitted, a gross necropsy will be done and the diagnostician will contact the biologist who submitted the specimen by email or phone to discuss next steps. Once histology results are back, the diagnostician will contact the submitter to make recommendations on ancillary testing and to provide estimated costs for any additional testing. If only tissues are submitted (as in the case of a field necropsy), the diagnostician will discuss recommendations for testing. In all cases, any additional, key preliminary results will be communicated to the submitter as they are completed. The submitter, not the diagnostician, is responsible for communicating these results to other relevant staff within their agency. Depending on the complexity of the case, an Interpretive Final Report will typically be provided within 30 days of submission. NWDC diagnosticians are responsible for notifying all relevant agencies of any reportable diseases. NWDC Field Veterinarian is available to discuss diagnostic results if desired. All diagnostic data will be entered in the NWDC Wildlife Health database.