As fall visitors flock to Banff, wildlife officials are warning to be careful around elk.

Tonight on CBC Calgary Television News at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. reporter Carla Beynon will explain why the number of human-elk encounters has dropped dramatically over the last 10 years.

It's mating season for the animals, who live on the outskirts of town.

The bull elk can be very aggressive and officials stress that people need to give them space. 

Steve Michel is the human-wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park.


Elk mate in the fall and Banff National Park staff are warning visitors to the area to be aware of the animals. (Submitted by member Hudson01162012)

"When people see elk in an environment that is not far from the townsite they think the animals are simply not wild and that is just not the case.  These are wild animals and although they have preferred habitat close to the townsite, they are still very wild and very dangerous, particularly at this time of year."

Michel said, if provoked, bull elk can be very aggressive towards people at this time of year.

"Their goal is to group as many female elk, cow elk into harems and to protect them and try and breed with as many of them as possible," said Michel.

"They will drop their antlers down, potentially try and pin someone to the ground, [it’s a] very serious situation, if someone comes into contact with sharp elk antlers, it can and will be fatal."

For about 10 years parks officials have been managing the herd to make sure it doesn't get to big.

The elk are chased away from populated areas by park staff every morning and night and as a result, the number of dangerous encounters has dropped significantly, said Michel.

But Michel says people have to do their part by staying at least 30 metres away from the animals.