Does bear spray really work?
The answer is a qualified “YES,” according to Stephen Herrero, Ph.D., author of “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance” and professor of environmental science, University of Calgary, Alberta.
Dr. Herrero, a noted researcher of bear behavior and attacks, along with Andrew Higgins, a university colleague, examined 66 field cases in which various brands of bear spray were used on black and grizzly bears that displayed behavior ranging from overly curious to actively aggressive toward humans. They concluded that, “while we don’t know how these encounters would have ended in the absence of spray, the use…appears to have prevented injury in most cases,” Dr. Herrero says.
Dr. Herrero, other bear experts, and even bear spray manufacturers agree on one important point: Bear spray is a last resort after all other appropriate precautions–storing food in bearproof containers, keeping a clean camp, making lots of noise while hiking, steering clear of areas with fresh bear scat or digs–have failed.
So, how do the experts recommend using the bear spray?
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, Tom Smith, Ph.D.: A research wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Biological Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska, and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend the following:
Look for a bear spray that:
* Is labeled “for deterring attacks by bears.” Avoid products labeled for use against humans because they won’t have the firepower you need.
* Contains 1 to 2 percent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, with a net weight of at least 225 grams or 7.9 ounces-this is considered the minimum effective size.
* Is derived from oleoresin of capsicum (OC), the only currently EPA-approved active ingredient.
* Is registered with the EPA to ensure compliance with standards for active ingredients and performance.
* Delivers a shotgun-cloud pattern. Less-expensive, less-effective sprays often come out in a stream, rather than in a cloud pattern that you don’t have to aim as exactly. All EPA-registered sprays have a cloud pattern.
Buy this EPA-approved Bear spray here.
* The Bear Spray CAN NOT be used in advance by spraying the campground, tents, equipment and people. The Bear spray is only effective if fired at a live approaching bear.
* If a bear is charging fire at the bear at a minimum range of 20-25 feet.
* The Bear sprays, like those carried by PepperSprayCenter.com, have at least 6 seconds total spray time, as indicated on the label. This allows you multiple short bursts of spray if needed for a single persistent bear, or for multiple encounters on a long trip.