Virginia Falls reopened to public after bears cause 4-day closure

Virginia Falls reopened to public after bears cause 4-day closure

Parks Canada temporarily closed the Virginia Falls area on the South Nahanni River after multiple bear sightings. 

"A grizzly bear... and her two cubs were encountered near a moose carcass at Virginia Falls on July 14," said Jonathan Tsetso, superintendent of the Nahanni National Park Reserve. 

Since the initial sighting, Tsetso said there were other reports of black bears and grizzly bears around the carcass. He said Parks Canada closed the area as soon as possible and sent wildlife monitors in to remove the body.

The monitors are trained in bear behaviour and firearm use.

"[The moose carcass] was removed as well as any scented vegetation or soils that may have continued to attract bears in the area," said Tsetso.

The Virginia Falls area reopened for public use as of July 18, since the bear activity decreased. But "we do have a public alert that is still in place for the safety of our visitors," said Tsetso.

He said it's a popular location. "We do have day visitors... We also have river travellers who come from upstream and who start their trips at Virginia Falls and paddle down the South Nahanni River."

"The park is a home — a natural habitat to both grizzly bears and black bears. So we let all our visitors know that they are in the habitat of bears and we give them quite a bit of information on how to travel safely through bear country," Tsetso said.

Tours stopped

The closure impacted day tours offered by Simpson Air, said Ted Grant, owner of the airline. The airline offers two-day tours, with the float planes landing at the top of the falls. 

But because of the park closure, some of the planes weren't able to stop at the falls.

"We had 13 people scheduled on a day tour to go to Virginia Falls and more than half of them have left town because they can't wait," he said.

"Some of these people have come a long ways," said Grant. He said people came from Switzerland, Germany, and all over Canada. 

Tsetso said he understands "the unanticipated delays ... were stressful for our visitors and our pilots, but we do appreciate their patience, understanding and co-operation as we were managing the situation."