Bear Spray

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Bear Spray

bear safety

Stay Safe with Bear Spray

Bear spray is an important tool for lowering your risk of injury in the event of a confrontation with a bear. Carrying and knowing how to use bear spray is essential for people who live, work, and recreate in bear country. Although factors like wind, rain, temperature, and even the distance between you and the bear may reduce its efficacy, it can be a life saving tool when used properly.

Minimize Your Risk

  1. Carry an accessible bear spray and know how to use it.
  2. Hike in groups of three or more.
  3. Make noise to avoid startling a bear (i.e. singing, yelling, clapping), especially in areas where you can’t hear well or see very far.
  4. Be alert to your surroundings – avoid wearing earbuds.
  5. If you do see a bear, maintain at least 100 yds between the bear and yourself.
  6. Keep all bear attractants (e.g. food, coolers, backpacks, anything with a scent) with you or properly secured at all times.
  7. Take note of bear sign (e.g. tracks, bear scat, ripped apart logs).
  8. Avoid carcasses (often identified by groups of ravens and magpies) and other seasonal food sources (e.g. berry patches).
jackson hole grizzly bear

Carry Bear Spray and Know How to Use it!

Bear spray is a non-lethal deterrent that temporarily impairs a bear’s ability to breathe, see, and smell by dispersing a fine fog of capsicum (pepper) derivatives, allowing you time to leave the area. Please keep these things in mind:

  • Bear spray should only be used if a bear is acting aggressively or approaching you.
  • Bear spray should always be readily accessible, and never stored in your backpack.
  • You should be cautious when handling and transporting bear spray and leave the safety on until you are ready to use it.
  • Never leave a bear spray in a hot vehicle or exposed to the hot sun for long periods of time.
  • Always make sure your bear spray is inaccessible to children or pets.

Watch this video of Kerry Gunther, a Yellowstone National Park Bear Management Biologist, demonstrating how to use bear spray.

If You’re Attacked: Defensive Bears

The majority of bear attacks are defensive rather than predatory; where bears are defending their space, food or offspring. If you encounter an agitated bear:

  1. Do not run!
  2. Use bear spray when the bear is within range if you have it.
  3. When possible, slowly back away and avoid making eye contact or any aggressive actions (yelling, throwing rocks, etc…) toward the bear.

If the bear makes contact with you:

  1. Drop to the ground and lie flat on your stomach with your legs slightly spread apart and play dead.
  2. Use your hands to protect the back of your neck, and keep your backpack on to protect your back.
  3. Stay still until you know for sure that the bear has gone.
    • If the bear rolls you over, keep rolling until you are back on your stomach.
    • Repeat attacks can occur if you get up before the bear leaves.

If You’re Attacked: Predatory Bears

Predatory attacks are extremely rare; however, they can occur. Some of the behavioral signs of a predatory bear include:

  1. Acting very interested and approaching you.
  2. Not defending anything.
  3. Not displaying any of the normal stress behaviors (e.g. moaning, woofing, paw swatting, or jaw popping)

How to act if you encounter a predatory bear:

  • Do not run!
  • Make your self look big and yell and wave your arms at the bear.
  • Keep your group close together.
  • Throw rocks, sticks, or whatever is available at the bear.
  • Back away slowly.
  • Use bear spray or other weapon to defend yourself if necessary.

If you are attacked by a predatory bear you need to fight back with any means necessary, do not drop and play dead!

Practice is Important!

We recommend practicing drawing your bear spray and removing the safety from your bear spray because many people struggle with the safety in stressful situations. If you do practice be extremely careful not to actually spray and always practice outdoors.

Bear Wise Jackson Hole conducts bear spray demonstrations at events multiple times throughout the year using harmless inert bear spray cannisters. These events offer participants the chance practice using inert bear spray on a simulated charging bear. If you would like to practice using bear spray please contact us and we can either schedule a demonstration or let you know a local event where we will have the demonstration set up and ready.

Please call: (307) 739-0968.