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A Good Reason Not To Run - Pack Bear Spray

Fish & Wildlife

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bear spray has the potential to reduce human injuries and the number of bears that are killed as a result of conflicts with humans.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee stresses the importance of following proper bear avoidance safety techniques and recommends bear spray as an effective tool for personal safety in bear country.

Proper bear avoidance techniques, according to the IGBC include: never approaching, following, interacting with or feeding bears.

"Bear spray has a solid record of success in fending off charging and attacking bears, and preventing or reducing injury based on analysis of as many as 72 incidents that involved people spraying menacing bears," said Jamie Jonkel, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear management specialist in Missoula.

Jonkel said if a bear charges from a distance, spray a two to three second burst in the direction of the bear. Experts recommend bear spray with a minimum spray distance of 25 feet.

Point the canister slightly down and spray with a slight side-to-side motion. This distributes an expanding cloud of spray that the bear must pass through before it gets close to you. Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you.

Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge. Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges. A video demonstrating the use of bear spray is available on the FWP website at on the Be Bear Aware web page. Go to Fish & Wildlife and click Living With Wildlife then Be Bear Aware.

If you have a sudden close encounter with a bear, spray at the front of the bear. Continue spraying until the bear either breaks off its charge or is going to make contact.

If the bear is a grizzly and it’s going to make contact, drop to the ground, play dead and give the spray time to take effect. If it is a black bear, prepare to fight aggressively with any available weapons (fists, sticks, rocks, etc.) until the spray has time to take effect. Bear spray has been shown to reduce the length and severity of encounters.

IGBC bear spray recommendations and other useful information on bear resistant equipment can be found on the IGBC website .

For information on bear safety, go to the FWP website at on the Fish & Wildlife page, click Living With Wildlife, then Be Bear Aware.