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Bear Pepper Spray Guidelines and How-to Recommendations
July 31, 2010 - 9:25am — GettingOutside
Proper use of bear pepper spray in an encounter with a bear can mean the difference between life and death – yours as a camper, backpacker or hiker, AND that of the bear as a free, and wild animal. The responsibility to choose the right spray, learn how to use it and be prepared is yours alone.
Bear pepper spray has been proven to:
- reduce the number of grizzly bears killed in self-defense,
- reduce human injuries caused by bears, and
- help promote the recovery and survival of the grizzly bear.
In a study in the April 2008 edition of the Journal of Wildlife Management, Tom Smith examines "The Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska." The study shows that in 72 cases where people used bear pepper spray to defend themselves from brown, black and polar bear, the spray stopped brown bears 92 percent of the time and 98 percent of the people involved were uninjured.
Which Bear Pepper Spray Should You Use?
GettingOutside.com doesn’t endorse any particular manufacturer. You can use these guidelines for determining which pepper spray brand is best for you.
In the rare case of a conflict, bear pepper spray, a high-pressure extract of about two percent capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, and other related capsaicinoids, can get the job done. Recent incidents show bear pepper spray to be more effective than a bullet in diverting or stopping a charging bear, according to the Center For Wildlife Information in Missoula.
You can click the following links for some examples of bear pepper sprays that should meet your needs:
Another way to begin is to check out the different brands available at your local sporting goods store. Many manufacturers offer helpful product comparisons and detailed user instructions on their Internet web sites too. Be especially careful to confirm that you are looking at products registered with the EPA and that are intended specifically for use on bears.
Features to Consider when Selecting a Bear Pepper Spray
- the percent of active ingredients - two percent is recommended (no less 1.3 %)
- spray time - bear experts say six to nine seconds
- weight of the canister - at least 7.9 ounces
- spray range - bear experts recommend a range of 25 feet in order to give the bear time to experience the effects of the spray.
Practicing with Bear Pepper Spray
Getting thoroughly acclimated and proficient with your best line of defense makes a lot of sense. Manufacturers generally recommend practicing the steps necessary to use bear pepper spray including arming the container, spraying and then restoring the safety clip to disarm the container.
First time users will definitely want to take a test spray or two. Because the spray is so forceful, it may require some practice to control it, especially if there is any wind.
The down side is that every test spray reduces the canister's effective spray time. It is important to track the time remaining on a canister carefully.Carrying a second can is often recommended by experts, especially in remote areas.
Carrying Bear Pepper Spray
- Each person should carry a can of bear pepper spray when working or recreating in bear habitat.
- Bear pepper spray should be carried in a quick, accessible fashion such as in a hip or chest holster.
- Keep bear pepper spray readily available in your cooking area.
- Keep bear pepper spray readily available next to your flashlight in your tent.
Some experts recommend carrying more than one can of bear pepper spray to ensure you always have the additional spray time you might need if it takes more than one burst to stop a bear, or if you encounter more than one bear.
When Should You Use Bear Pepper Spray?
- Bear pepper spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.
- Bear pepper spray is only effective when used as an airborne deterrent sprayed as a cloud at an aggressive animal.
It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent. Do not apply the bear pepper spray to camping gear, tents and backpacks. It does NOT repel bears when sprayed on such items.
How to Use Bear Pepper Spray
- Remove 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 25 feet away.
- Spray again if the bear continues to approach.
Once the bear has retreated or is busy cleaning itself, leave the area as quickly as possible, but don't run. Go to an immediate area of safety, such as a car, tree, or building.
Do not chase or pursue the bear.
Bear Pepper Spray Safety
The most intense effects of bear pepper spray may last 30-45 minutes. It is potent enough to cause extreme discomfort and damage to the eyes if it is accidentally released at close range. Flushing the affected skin with water can help, but expect to be uncomfortable for awhile.
Bear Pepper Spray Transportation and Storage
Do not plan to transport bear pepper spray on commercial airlines, but you can identify suppliers on the Internet in the area where you plan to recreate. Also be aware that extreme heat or cold may affect the performance of the product. Canisters have been known to explode if left in a vehicle in summer. Each canister also has an expiration date.
(Source: Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks)