Back Country Protection With Bear Spray
It will soon be that time of year again when Americans by the millions will be heading to the high country for camping, hiking and fishing activities. Much has been written about bears and bear pepper spray and how to defend against bear attacks. Some of it, to be honest, is a little bit confusing. Here’s some information about bear attacks and what you need to know.
Bears are naturally curious animals, but are not normally aggressive. They get a little bit more aggressive when they’re hungry. Some people say they’re hungry all the time and that may be more true than not. But in the fall before they hibernate and in the spring time when they come out of hibernation they can be particularly hungry and particularly aggressive.
Up in the high country, where they live, the conditions of their natural habitat determines to some extent how hungry they are and how aggressive they are. So, for example, if it’s particularly dry and much of their natural food is nonexistent they may turn more aggressively towards other sources of food at lower elevations and campgrounds.
If you see a bear and a bear sees you at the same time the best thing you can do is speak softly to the bear, never turn your back and back away slowly. Never run away from a bear.
If a bear sees you and starts advancing towards you try to make yourself appear as large as you can. That may startle the bear and scare him away. If it doesn’t scare him away curl up in a ball and offer no resistance.
Many people think that a handgun is effective against bears. If you shoot a bear, all it does is get the bear mad at you. The fact of the matter is that studies done by fish and wildlife experts show that if you are attacked by a bear and use bear pepper spray chances are 90% in your favor that you will win that battle.
We would never recommend going into the back country without an EPA approved bear pepper spray. Always look for the EPA’s seal of approval on a can of bear spray and only use sprays that are designated as bear pepper sprays. That indicates a minimum amount of spray in the canister, usually at least 230 grams, and a minimal amount of OC (oleoresin capsicum) which is the main ingredient in all pepper sprays. This Mace Bear Pepper Spray has a range of as much as 35 feet and is EPA approved.
The other problem that people have is they don’t know how to use it.
First of all, always carry it in a hip holster so it is readily available.
The Sierra Club offers these tips on how to use bear spray.
“Remove the safety clip.
Aim slightly down and towards the approaching bear. If necessary, adjust for cross wind.
Spray a brief shot when the bear is about 50 feet away.
Spray again if the bear continues to approach”
When the bear is about 50 feet away and is advancing towards you start creating a wall of mist with the spray so when the bear advances into it, he will smell it with his extremely sensitive nostrils and be repulsed by it.
Bear pepper spray is the most effective deterrent against bear attacks. Never go into the back country without it, especially when you’re fishing, camping or hiking.
Unlike a gun, bear pepper spray does not have to be aimed precisely to stop a charging bear. The bear pepper spray makes a hanging fog in the air, and when the spray hits the bear, or visa versa, it causes immediate irritation in the eyes, nose, mouth, throat and lungs, temporarily disabling the bear. According to experts, there is no better way to stop an attack by an aggressive grizzly.
In analyzing dozens of human-bear encounters bear pepper spray was found to be 94 percent effective in deterring aggressive bears.
Of course, bear pepper spray is not a substitute for staying alert and taking basic precautions. In the backcountry, hikers should exercise good judgment and follow recommended safety precautions, such as making noise and traveling in a group – not alone.
Before you buy a bear pepper spray it should:
Be a minimum of 7.9 ounces or 225 grams.
- Have a minimum spray distance of 20′.
- Have a minimum duration of 6 seconds.
- When faced with a bear encounter, give the bear a chance to leave.
- The bear pepper spray should be your last resort.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since those standards above for bear spray. They were given that authority by an act of Congress, believe it or not.
Look for the EPA registration and establishment numbers, usually found at the bottom of the front label; only bear sprays will have this information. Also, bear spray labels will clearly refer to bears, and state it is a bear deterrent, bear repellent, or for stopping charging or attacking bears.
“Currently the EPA requires that the concentration of Capsaicin and related capsaicinoids range between 1 and 2.0%. The variance in potency within this range is negligible, and all will affect the eyes, nose, throat and lungs of a bear.”
Before you use bear pepper spray make sure you read the instructions carefully.
Bear pepper spray should only be used if you are charged by a bear. Point the canister towards the charging bear, slightly downwards, and if possible, spray before the bear is within 30-40 feet. Do not use bear pepper spray to harass or chase animals out of your yard. Call your local wildlife management agency to assist you.
If you have ever experienced being attacked by a pack of charging dogs you can only imagine what a 500 pound bear attack is like. They are surprisingly agile and very quick on their feet.
A bear spray is a must for everyone who goes into the back country. It could save your life.
Our article entitled ‘Guide To Bear Attack Prevention’ has much more information on how to behave in bear country. In that article we offer some bear encounter safety tips they’re not only good to know, but also may be a life saver.
Feedback on these posts is appreciated. Please share your experience. We want to hear your thoughts.