Be prepared in bear country with bear spray, but be sure you know how to use it.
There seem to be several reports of human and bear encounters each spring. As bears leave their winter dens their encounters with humans automatically increase.
It’s wise to carry a reliable bear spray should you be in bear country. But it’s also important to know what that spray is designed to do, how to use it, as well as how it should not be used. Following are a few misconceptions people may have about bear spray.
1. Bear Spray and Personal Defense Pepper Spray are not the same thing.
The ingredients are essentially the same with bear spray and personal defense pepper spray (PDS). Both types of sprays are made from oleoresin capsicum.
However, the ingredient that works as a deterrent in bear spray is capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The ingredient that is at play in PDS is the oleoresin capsicum. Cannisters that claim 10% to 30% oleoresin capsicum are personal defense sprays, not bear sprays.
The EPA regulates bear spray and the concentration of capsaicin and related capsaicinoids range between 1% and 2% for bear sprays.
2. The suggested minimum spray distance they recommended was 25 feet.
Many would prefer to engage bear spray on a charging bear from a greater distance, but the minimum suggested distance is 25 feet.
The idea is to lay down a wide, foggy barrier between yourself and the charging bear, giving the bear more time in that fog so that the spray has the maximum amount of time to get into the bruin’s eyes, nose, throat and lungs.
So, if you’re getting charged, don’t wait until the last second to hit the bear. Do it as he’s coming at you.
3. The suggested minimum spray duration they recommended was 6 seconds.
Utilizing bear spray is not a short burst kind of act. You’ve got to lay it on and keep laying it on, for at least six full seconds, minimum.
A lot of things can happen with a bear attack. The bear might retreat but then return and charge again. Make him abandon that idea with a cloud of continuous spray.
Weather can also affect the efficacy of the spray. If it’s raining, for example, much of the spray may be dissipated by the rain. You need to keep it going.
In other words, when under attack, give ’em hell.
4. Bear spray is only meant to be used on charging or attacking bears.
Bear spray is not a substitute for vigilance and following appropriate bear avoidance safety techniques. Do not approach a bear that is not charging or spray it to move it from the area.
If a bear is not charging or appears passive, you spraying it may change its attitude from one of curiosity or wanting to leave on its own, to one of irritation and even aggression.
5. Bear spray is a good last line of defense.
Again, bear spray is a last line of defense. It is not a substitute for being alert and taking the right precautionary steps to avoid an encounter in the first place.
Be Bear Aware has some solid and succinct final advice that is worth sharing verbatim:
If a bear charges you from a distance, spray a 2-3 second burst in the direction of the bear, pointing the canister slightly downwards and spraying 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.
If you have a sudden close encounter with a bear, spray at the front of the bear (because of the expanding cloud, you don’t have to take the time to try to aim carefully at the face or the eyes). Continue spraying until the bear either breaks off its charge or is going to make contact. If it is a grizzly bear and it’s going to make contact, drop to the ground and 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 maulings.
The UDAP Back Attack Pack is an additional unique new development in the field of bear spray defense systems.
Read about it here: Bear Spray Device Serves As Last Chance Defense
This information comes from the Be Bear Aware website.