Bear Spray

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
1 minute, 3 seconds

Bear spray is proven to be highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears. Bear Management Biologist Kerry Gunther walks through the steps to deploy bear spray.


Take an active role in protecting yourself and the bears people come to Yellowstone to see: carry bear spray and learn how to use it!

Bear spray is a non-lethal deterrent designed to stop aggressive behavior in bears. Its use can reduce human injuries caused by bears and the number of bears killed by people in self-defense. Bear spray uses a fine cloud of Capsicum derivatives to temporarily reduce a bear's ability to breath, see, and smell, giving you time to leave the area.

What's it like to use bear spray? Watch a video in which three Yellowstone employees share their story about a surprise encounter with a grizzly or listen to a podcast about a family whose hike in Yellowstone taught them how important it is to carry, and know how to use, bear spray.

Tips for Use

  • Keep bear spray readily accessible in a quick draw holster, not stored in your pack.
  • You don't have to be a good shot with bear spray. Just put up a cloud of spray between you and the charging bear.
  • Practice! Use an inert can of bear spray to practice removing it from your 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 crosswind so that you understand how bear spray is affected by the wind.
  • Do not use bear spray like insect repellent. It does not work as a deterrent when applied to people or equipment.
  • No bear deterrent is 100% effective: learn how to reduce your risk while hiking in bear country.
  • Make sure your bear spray is EPA-approved: don't depend on personal defense products to stop a charging bear.
  • Bear spray can explode if it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't store it in the passenger compartment of vehicles or near any heat sources.
  • Make sure your bear spray hasn't expired.

If a Bear Charges You

  • Remove the safety clip
  • Aim slightly down 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
  • Keep spraying until the bear changes direction
  • If the bear continues to charge, spray into its face
  • Leave the area promptly

Where to Buy

Bear spray is sold at gift shops, outdoor stores, service stations, and bookstores inside the park, as well as in local communities. Always select an EPA-approved product that is specifically designed to stop bears. Personal defense, jogger defense, law enforcement or military defense sprays may not contain the correct ingredients, or have the proper delivery system, to stop a charging bear.


Bear spray is available for rent at Canyon Village in the kiosk located near the Canyon Visitor Education Center, and at Old Faithful in the Yurt south of the Yellowstone Tribal Heritage Center. For more information, visit Bear Aware.


Bear spray cannot be taken on airplanes and may cause injury if thrown away. Please check locally within the park for locations where bear spray canisters can be recycled.

Campers preparing dinner in the Tower Campground
Camp in Bear Country

Tips to keep bears and people safe.

Photo of hikers with bear spay
Hike in Bear Country

Best practices for safely exploring the park.

Photo of a grizzly bear in a green meadow
Bear Safety

Best practices for traveling safely in bear country.

Photo of a grizzly bear and cub on a boardwalk at Old Faithful
Bear Encounter

How you react to a bear encounter depends on the circumstances.

Photo of a sign indicating a bear management area
Bear Management Areas

Restrictions to reduce encounters between humans and bears.

Photo of a person watching a grizzly bear from a vehicle
Watch Roadside Bears

Learn how to protect yourself and keep bears wild when watching them along the road.

Last updated: September 5, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



Contact Us