Using Bear Spray To Deter An Aggressive Bear

Bear spray

Bear spray is proven to be highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears

Bear spray is a non-lethal bear deterrent designed to stop aggressive behavior in bears. Capsicum, the active ingredient in bear spray is a strong irritant to the eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and lungs of bears.

Remember, no bear deterrent is 100% effective. Use proper bear encounter avoidance techniques as your first line of defense!


  • Keep it readily accessible: bear spray must be immediately accessible in a quick draw holster, not stored in your pack.
  • You don't have to be a good shot with bear spray. All you need to do is put up a cloud of bear spray between you and the charging bear. Precise aiming is not necessary.
  • Practice first: use an inert bear spray to practice quick drawing bear spray from its holster, removing the safety tab with your thumb, and firing. Practice firing inert bear spray with the wind at your back, into a head wind, and with a cross-wind so that you understand how bear spray is affected by the wind.

If a Bear Charges You

  • Remove the safety clip
  • Aim slightly downward and adjust for crosswind
  • Begin spraying when the charging bear is 30-60 feet (10-20 yards) away
  • Spray at the charging bear so that the bear must pass through a cloud of spray

If the Bear Continues to Charge

  • Keep spraying until the bear changes direction
  • Spray into the bear's face
  • Leave the area promptly after use: after you spray a bear with bear spray you should promptly leave the area as the effects of the bear spray will eventually wear off
  • Once discharged, it is difficult to tell how much spray remains in the canister. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for canister replacement or disposal.

Where to Find Bear Spray

Bear spray is sold at gift shops, outdoor stores, service stations, and bookstores inside the park, as well as in many stores in the surrounding towns.


Bear spray is now available for rent a Canyon Village. Bear Aware LLC will rent 9.2 oz. Pepper Power® bear spray from a kiosk near the Canyon Visitor Education Center. The kiosk is located at the north end of the visitor center plaza, 20 yards from the main entrance.

Rentals include holster and belt, hiking safety information, and instructions on proper use of bear spray. Cost is $9.25 per day or $28.00 per week(3–7 days). Prices do not include tax. For more information visit Bear AwareLCC. Bear Aware, LLC, is an authorized permittee of the National Park Service.



Safe disposal of bear spray can be a challenge. It can't be taken on airplanes. And if thrown in the trash, it can injure others or become a hazard in landfills.

A group of private and public partners has developed a machine that safely removes active ingredients and propellant from each bear spray canister. The components are sorted for recycling and diverted from landfills.

Bear spray canisters can be recycled at park hotels, stores, visitor centers, backcountry offices, and ranger stations, as well as area camping stores, and the Bozeman airport.


More Information

We have a great videos on using pepper spray on our Wildlife Safety Videos page.


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