Wildlife officials are worried about a herd of elk grazing very close to the Trans-Canada Highway near Canmore, Alta. ((CBC))

Alberta wildlife officials are keeping an eye on a herd of elk grazing right beside the Trans-Canada Highway near Canmore.

The animals have come down out of the forest just metres away from six lanes of traffic, said Jon Jorgenson, a senior wildlife biologist with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

"So you get animals moving in from surrounding areas into the valley around here in Canmore to spend the winter," he said. "And the highway basically bisects the valley and animals have to get back and forth from one side of the valley to the other."

Every year 10 to 20 elk — twice as many deer — along with several cougars, coyotes and bears, are killed trying to cross the busy highway, Jorgenson said.

Fencing along the highway and the construction of animal overpasses have significantly reduced the wildlife death toll just inside Banff National Park, about five kilometres west.

But adding fences and overpasses eastward from Canmore to the Kananaskis River would be too expensive, Jorgenson said. One overpass costs about $100,000 to build.

Instead it's up to motorists to be patient and drive carefully, said Kim Titchener, a spokesman for Bow Valley Wildsmart.