Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pepper Spray/Bear Spray WORKS

Here is another reason to have a canister of Pepper Spray around.

Only if the original link goes down, the article is reprinted in full below.

Jackson Hole Star Tribune/June 14, 2007

Bear spray can save your life


As a visitor to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, you're naturally curious about bears. You'd like to see bears, but not up close and personal -- that's more than a little scary -- especially after a Montana photographer recently got mauled in Yellowstone.

You'd like to do some hiking in and around Yellowstone, ranging from maybe half an hour's walk to a full day. Maybe you're more ambitious and plan on a backpacking trip.

You've heard that pepper spray is a good deterrent to bears, both black and grizzly. Heck, you already have a little key-chain canister of mace or pepper spray, so you're good to go, right?


A charging grizzly bear is not the same thing as a mugger on a street corner, or even a charging pit bull. A grizzly bear can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and outrun an Olympic sprinter, so you need a "bear" pepper spray deterrent that's up to the job.

The Sierra Club Grizzly Bear Project's Monica Fella said to make sure that the canister:

* Says the product is made for stopping or preventing bear attacks.

* Contains at least 7.9 ounces of spray.

* Contains 1-2 percent capsaicin/capsaicinoids.

* Can spray a minimum of 25 feet.

* Has a minimum spray duration of 6 seconds, and is EPA registered.

* Is immediately at hand in a belt or chest holster. It doesn't do any good in a knapsack.

Canisters smaller than this may not last long enough or spray far enough to stop a bear's charge.

Fella said she worries that visitors to bear country might rationalize the purchase of smaller canisters, when shopping for pepper spray.

"You really need the bigger canister," she said.

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.

University of Calgary grizzly bear expert Stephen Herrero analyzed dozens of human-bear encounters and found bear pepper spray 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 procedures, such as making noise and traveling in a group.

Bear pepper spray should only be used if you are charged by a bear. Point the canister toward the charging bear, slightly downward, 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.

Fella said the Sierra Club is working with Idaho and Montana wildlife agencies to offer practice sessions with inert (no active ingredients) canisters of spray. Wyoming has long offered such practice sessions.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department allows people to practice spraying inert training canisters at the annual Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo and offers demonstrations for community groups by special request. Mark Bruscino, leader of the department's bear team, said you don't want to practice with real bear pepper spray, because mistakes can be extremely unpleasant.

"We offer chances to practice at all our workshops," Bruscino said. Game wardens play the role of a charging grizzly bear. "Of course, that's when we really want to make sure that they're using an inert can," Bruscino said.

Gary Clutter, a big game hunter from Bozeman, had a face-to-face encounter with a grizzly while hunting a few years ago, and says bear spray saved him from a dire situation.

"I caught the bear (with bear pepper spray) full in the face when it was four feet away. It was like it hit a wall. The grizzly turned and ran so fast toward her cub she ran over it," Clutter said. "Then, cub and sow were gone. This worked exactly the way it was designed to work. The bears didn't die and all I'm out is a can of bear pepper spray."

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