BOZEMAN – It’s just a matter of time before chronic wasting disease infects Montana’s deer and elk herds, and state wildlife officials are preparing for it.

Keith Aune says hunters are asked to call the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department if they see any animals with extreme weakening, excessive salivation and urination or head tremors.

“It’s not that far to Montana from where it is in Wyoming,” said Aune, a wildlife scientist who studies the disease. “You’re going to see the slow move of CWD to Montana. How long it will take, I don’t know,” he told hunters here Wednesday.

Aune said the agency is beginning to fill out the paperwork necessary for an action plan to try to fight or control the disease.

CWD is a fatal and incurable disease that eats holes in brain tissue. It infects elk and mule deer herds at fairly low levels, but Aune said whitetailed deer appear to have little or no resistance to it.

“We want you guys thinking about CWD,” he said. The only method of control so far has been the eradication of entire herds.

CWD has shown up in wild elk and deer herds in Colorado and Wyoming for about 40 years and has been detected in Wisconsin and in Saskatchewan and Alberta.