Craig Pass Closed for the Season; Mammoth to Norris Closed Sept. 14-30
The road linking West Thumb and Old Faithful is closed for the season—traffic should detour through West Thumb, Lake, and Canyon. The road from Mammoth to Norris is closed for two weeks—traffic should detour over Dunraven Pass. More »
Bear Pepper Spray Video Transcript
Henry David Thoreau claimed that in wildness lies the preservation of man, the preservation of the wild spirit in us all. Many people agree and visit America’s wildlands often. From hikers to hunters to outfitters, almost every year statistics show that visitation is increasing to our wildlands, especially in parks and forests.
When we visit wild country, we often visit bear country. In some areas bears, even grizzly bears, are increasing in number and as more people visit bear habitat, the greater the chance of an encounter with a bear. Occasionally these encounters lead to injury or even death, both to people and to bears. Bears and people and our wilderness experience can best be preserved by properly preparing for bear country.
When bear encounters do occur, one response has been effective in consistently reducing the number of bear attacks with severe outcomes, the use of bear pepper spray. More and more people carry bear pepper spray in the field, professionals, outfitters, and everyday hikers and campers. Many can testify to the effectiveness of bear pepper spray as a bear deterrent, from bear specialists to outfitters, guides, and hunters.
But what exactly is bear pepper spray and what makes for a good choice. Be certain you are purchasing bear pepper spray, not personal defense or law enforcement spray. Bear pepper spray is clearly identified on the label. All bear pepper spray is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to show at least one of the following: “bear deterrent” or “to deter bears from attacking humans”. The label will clearly identify the proper ingredients such as “Capsaisan and related Capsaisinoids” or “derived from Oleoresin of Capsicum”. The active ingredient content should fall between 1 and 2 percent. All bear pepper spray must be registered with the environmental protection agency and the label will clearly show the following: EPA Registration Number, EPA Establishment Number, and state where manufactured. Canister minimum size requirements are 225 grams or 7.9 ounces of net weight. Read the label thoroughly for the following: detailed precautions, directions for use, and storage and disposal instructions listed on the canister.
When purchasing bear pepper spray take into consideration the following: you may have more than one encounter with a bear, you may have more than one bear charging you simultaneously, you will need sufficient spray for the hike out. Small personal-size canisters may be effective against humans, but are not effective against bears and they often emit a stream of liquid difficult to aim. If you come across a store selling an unregistered product as bear pepper spray, please help by notifying the Environmental Protection Agency.
A good bear pepper spray will have a safety clip on the trigger. This prevents accidental discharge. Never carry bear pepper spray in your pack. The time it takes to remove it can make the difference between being charged by a bear and being mauled by one. Two basic holsters allow for quick and easy access to the spray; the hip holster, and the chest strap holster.
It is recommended that each person should have their own canister both for their own protection and to back up others. Under no circumstances should you use the spray as an insecticide. Do not spray a tent or equipment. Never spray a person or clothing. The spray will not repel a bear from later curiosity or aggression. Bear pepper spray is only effective when the aerosol mist is directly inhaled or sprayed into the bears face.
In terms of human health and safety, there are a few things to remember. Asthmatics should avoid inhaling the spray. Contact lenses may be permanently damaged by exposure. If skin or eyes come in contact with the spray, flush with plenty of water. If you inhale the spray, move to an area of fresh air. The effects of the spray will wear off after about an hour.
Bear pepper spray should be transported in the trunk or back of the vehicle in a sealed bag or canister. Avoid handling in the car. Avoid storing in direct sunlight or in temperatures above 120 degrees F. Avoid risk of puncturing the canister.
Certain weather and habitat conditions may effect the use of bear pepper spray. With wind there are two concerns: speed and direction. A strong side wind will blow the mist of spray to the side. A strong head wind will blow the spray back at you. Even a mild head wind may eventually expose you to spray if you do not leave the area. Rain may dilute some of the spray on wet bear fur. A heavy rain may wash out some of the mist from the air. Extreme heat or cold may reduce effectiveness.
Remember, anything standing between you and a bear, such as thick vegetation, may represent a partial barrier to the spray. Be extra alert in limited sight areas. Bear pepper spray is non-lethal to bears and causes them to experience the following: eye irritation, choking, coughing, nausea, reduced breathing, and inflammation of the skin – all distracting a bear from its charge.
If you are new to bear pepper spray, practice spraying a couple of times. Also it is recommended to test fire each new canister to make sure it works properly. Always test outside, with any wind at your back. First, flip off the safety clip. Make sure the nozzle is aimed away from you. Press the trigger with a short test burst.
If you surprise a bear at close range, especially a grizzly bear, and especially a bear with cubs, know that they will usually leave, but be prepared to spray. There are many times when using bear pepper spray is not appropriate. If a bear is in the distance, do not approach or attempt to spray them. If a bear is nearby but not being aggressive or coming toward you, be prepared to spray, but try to leave the area first.
If you spot or suspect a bear to be in the area, don’t spray, but be prepared by: removing the can from the holster and removing the safety clip. When spraying a charging bear, especially shooting from the holster, you may not have time to aim. Try to spray early enough so the bear, if charging, runs into the widest bear pepper spray cloud.
If a bear begins to charge, spray when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet. Remember a bear can run up to 35 miles per hour. When spraying the bear, aim for the face but slightly downward for the spray will billow upwards a bit. Give a second shot if the first shot doesn’t immediately stop the bear’s charge. If the bear continues to charge, empty the can. Leave the area immediately after shooting the spray.
Bear pepper spray is recommended by professionals for prevention and defense against bear attacks. The cone of the spray allows for less precise aim. A bullet that only wounds a bear, produces a dangerous bear. Just as important, bear pepper spray is non-lethal. It may save you and the bear.
When you are in bear country the best defense is to follow basic safety techniques. Bear pepper spray is no substitute for planning. It won’t prevent encounters. Bear pepper spray is meant as a last course of action. It is no replacement for common sense. Every bear is different and each encounter is also unique. Visit your local wildlife agency to learn more about bears before entering bear country.
Today’s wilderness experience may often include bears. As you hike, camp, and hunt in bear country take care for the preservation of yourself and for bears.
Did You Know?
There are more people hurt by bison than by bears each year in Yellowstone. Park regulations state that visitors must stay at least 25 yards away from bison or elk and 100 yards away from bears.