Skip to main content

See also:

Carry bear spray in hand, not in a hip holster

So many people carrying bear spray have not have time to time to use their spray after being charged by nearby a bear that it's readily apparent people need to carry bear spray in hand, not in a hip holster or a pack. Here are a few examples of people who did not have time to use their bear spray:

In 2013, a bear researcher carrying bear spray did not have time to use it when he got charged by a grizzly near Island, Park, Id.

In June of 2012, hiker Ben Radakovich was nailed by a grizzly in Alaska when he didn't have time to use bear spray carried in a hip-holster.

For some inexplicable reason, Grand Teton National Park requires hunters participating in its elk reduction hunt to carry bear spray, but hunter Timothy Hix got mauled when he was charged by a grizzly, tried to use bear spray, and got run over and mauled before he could spray. Park officials said Hix did everything right. If he did everything right, why did Hix get injured? Is bear spray a realistic tool for a hunter carrying a rifle in his hand or hands?

Notorious grizzly bear photographer Jim Cole has the dubious distinction of having been mauled twice, once in Yellowstone, and once in Glacier National Park; on both occasions Cole was carrying bear spray but did not of time to use it. He was mauled in Glacier in 1993, and Yellowstone in 2007. Cole constantly harassed bears by approaching them for photographs, and overconfidence that bear spray would keep him safe no doubt contributed to his arrogant attitude and obnoxious behavior.

In 2011, a grizzly charged a group of seven NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) students in Alaska, and several incurred injuries. Three of the students had bear spray in their packs, so of course they did not have time to use it. If NOLS trains students on how-to-use bear spray, why were these kids carrying bear spray in their packs?

These are just a few examples of people who got charged by a bear and did not have time to use their bear spray; there are far too many incidents to recount them all.

Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska (2008) concludes by making an incredibly irresponsible statement: "Persons working and recreating in bear habitat should feel confident that they are safe if carrying bear spray."

Carrying bear spray is one issue. Using it is another matter entirely. Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska is a biased, flawed study that's a disgrace to the wildlife profession. Among other problems, it did not include a single incident when a person did not have time to use bear spray.

To make matters worse, the primary bear safety message from a a slew of state and federal agencies belonging to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is, "carry bear spray and know how to use it." This does not prepare hikers, hunters, and other outdoor recreationists for sudden encounter with a grizzly bear. All of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee's bear spray information is inadequate or wildly unrealistic.

In addition to telling people to carry bear spray and know how to use it, agencies sometimes tell people to carry bear spray where it is "readily accessible." Bear spray carried in a hip-holster might seem to be readily accessible, but the record clearly shows bear spray carried in this manner often cannot be used in time to stop a charging grizzly.

Several days ago, a grizzly charged a Canadian mountain biker carrying bear spray in his backpack, and knocked the man off his bike. The man fell face-down with his backpack facing up. The May 26, 2014 Vancouver Sun reports that, miraculously, the grizzly bit the can of bear spray in the backpack, the spray discharged, and the bear took off.

Instead of counting on a miracle, people relying on bear spray for safety would be wise to carry the bear spray in hand, not in a hip holster or a backpack.