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Does bear spray work with black bears and what brand?
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
there is probably no answer... on 02/21/2009 13:37:17 MST Print View

I doubt there are many people who have actually used spray on a black bear. Plus you would have to look at each situation such as human-habituated bear, female with cub, hiker did something dumb, etc.

I would venture to say that someone who takes spray is also carrying a 3lb bear cannister and assorted bear paraphernalia which would double the weight of some people's base weight.

Better to concentrate on good hiking practices.

To me, bear spray for black bears is akin to taking a parachute with you on a commerical airline flight. You will probably never need it, and if you did... you couldn't create an opportunity to jump out and deploy it.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Bear Spray and Black Bears on 02/21/2009 18:08:13 MST Print View

"Seriously, how many hikers have been mauled by a cougar? =-)"

Not many, but more than a few trail runners.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Upwind problem on 02/21/2009 18:14:42 MST Print View

One thing that has always given me pause about carrying bear spray is that any bear you surprise is not likely to be down wind from you but, rather, upwind. Using bear spray into the wind is probably not, like p#ss*ng, a very good idea.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: there is probably no answer... on 02/21/2009 18:36:56 MST Print View

yeah Nick, but in some places IE SEKI, or Yosemite and others....a bear cannister is required. I have had rangers ask me if I was carrying one.

this thread is rather ridiculous

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
I disagree. on 02/21/2009 19:40:38 MST Print View

The original op wanted to know if bear spray is effective with black bears. I think that was answered. If not, yes, it is.
He asked for a brand and I supplied the best one I know of based on research and testing.
To those that disagree, your experience may vary but the facts remain the same.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Bear mace on 02/21/2009 21:34:46 MST Print View

I must confess that I carry a small canister of mace--the size joggers use, and it is marketed for dog attacks. While it does not contain as much spray as counter assault, it is much, much lighter. Since my only problems hiking alone would be black bear, cougar, or human, I feel it is probably adequate. You don't HAVE to have the huge pepper spray can for the stuff to work. A small can will not spray as far, disperse as much or carry the punch the counter assault does, but black bears and cougars (and humans) are fairly easily deterred from attacking a human who fights back. That said, when in Grizzly country I carry counter assault and luckily have not had to use it, though there was a close call and you wouldn't catch me around Yogi without it.

Just Me
"Does bear spray work with black bears and what brand?" on 09/08/2009 19:05:31 MDT Print View

I really am not a pro on this but I can tell you as well a dog will cause more problems than solutions I think. We had a very well trained good blue healer and she brought us a P****D off 6' grizzly bear at full run through a pine forest. We were lucky to literally feel the ground shaking a few seconds before it arrived chasing the dog. Several of our backpacks were ripped to shreds so I think we would have been toast if we tried to stand our ground. There were 3 adults, 3 kids and I had a double bitted axe in hand not much against ????LBS of mad grizzly. I do not think I will be in a party where a dog comes along unless that dog is specifically trained for bears. We went back with rifles to retrieve the leftover stuff and found it had followed our tracks up to the cut-block the vehicle was parked in which was a very freaky in itself.
So I to ask.... is bear spray the best means of repelling a grizzly? or a 30-30? or no dog? We think it was more after the dog than us I really don't know though.

Dewey Riesterer
(Kutenay) - F
Spray on 09/08/2009 19:35:23 MDT Print View

Bear spray is sometimes effective against aggressive bears of both species and all too often is not. The point about spraying into the wind is an important one and is a major reason why I do not carry spray after testing it.

I have had a LOT of Grizzly and even more Black Bear experience in my working and recreational life and am convinced that caution, alertness and being willing to detour or even leave a particular hike/area is FAR more likely to keep you safe than ANY spray.

In the hands of an experienced and trained user, an appropriate firearm is, IMO, MUCH better than spray to keep you safe. I have a few custom-built Grizzlu defence guns and have been within 10 yards of a Grizzly on three separate occasions, twice armed and once alone and unarmed....I have NEVER had to shoot and have never wanted to, as I am a big wuss where bears are concerned and love them...alhtough they sure could use better hygiene!!!

I seldom carry a gun, DO carry a little airhorn to make noise BEFORE entering an area with restricted vision and am quite confident in my methods as no bear has "et" me, yet, in over 50 years of BC bush activities.

"Bear Encounter Survival Guide", by James Gary Shelton, buy this book and learn what he has to say, it IS the most realistic advice in print that I know of.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Where should bear spray be carried? on 09/08/2009 19:52:43 MDT Print View

In what parts of North America should bear spray be carried?
I would guess parts of Alaska or NW Canada, and Polar bear territory, but don't really know.

In the northeast US, there have been black bear problems in the Adirondacks (and further south NY where they are eating household garbage) and occasionally in VT and NH, but chances of an attack here are so remote that it's probably silly to carry it.

Ontario does seem to recommend bear spray in the back country:

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Bear Spray on 09/09/2009 08:19:02 MDT Print View

Living not that far from Banff, Jasper, and having hiked the Waterton area (extreme south Alberta), I can attest that this is bear country and I always carry bear spray. Haven't had to use it, thank goodness, but I take it as a last resort precaution.

As Kute indicated, bear awareness is the best defence.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
Bear Spray on 09/09/2009 08:27:39 MDT Print View

The trick I find with bear spray is to remember that it is a repellent, not a defense. You need to remember to apply it at the trailhead and also regularly throughout the day. Make sure you get spots like the back of you knees and armpits.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Bear spray....revisited on 09/09/2009 08:35:53 MDT Print View

Yes, your brain and senses are the first and best line of defense. I still carry bear spray (based on research and experience) and I carry a firearm on occasion, as well.
Kutenay, you mentioned,
"I seldom carry a gun, DO carry a little airhorn to make noise BEFORE entering an area with restricted vision and am quite confident in my methods as no bear has "et" me, yet, in over 50 years of BC bush activities."
About that air horn. I guess it depends on the bear (much like with other techniques). I had one come running like the horn was a freaking dinner bell!
PS Glad to see you're still around....and on at least one bp forum. :-)

Edited by toesnorth on 09/09/2009 08:36:39 MDT.

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
Bear Spray as a Repellent - now there's a thought! on 09/09/2009 09:10:15 MDT Print View

@Robert: I hope you're joking when you talk about using bear spray as a repellent and applying it before you head to the trail. Bear spray is basically pepper spray and you're going to REALLY suffer if you spray yourself deliberately with it! Maybe that's the point... anyone who does that probably shouldn't be on the trail in the first place.

I think it actually IS designed as a last line of defense so you should have it immediately accessible (like on your belt) and pull it out as soon as you see a bear, be ready to spray it if (and only if) he charges you. It WILL send him running and I'm told probably do a better job than a bullet at stopping him from mauling you!

Overall, it seems that awareness is the first line of defense, then things like air horns to pre-empt problems, then if you do see a bear, making yourself big and being noisy, finally, if you get charged use your bear spray as a last resort. And of course, don't carry in places where there is no risk of attack!

Edited by on 09/09/2009 09:25:32 MDT.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 09/09/2009 09:43:52 MDT Print View

I've been trying for years to convince people that that's not the case ;)

John Tyberg
(jtyberg) - F

Locale: Southern California
my bear story on 09/09/2009 11:09:07 MDT Print View

On my recent JMT hike, we camped up the steep incline above Shadow lake (Ten miles north of Red's). We put all of our smelly stuff in the canisters and went to bed cowboy style, without our tarps. I woke up in the middle of the night and there was a large bear standing above me, sniffing the air. I shouted and flinched backward, and the bear had a similar reaction. He was surprised at my shock and ambled down the hill when I clapped my hands and told him to go away.

I didn't sleep well for the next few nights and I also used my tarp every night as a psychological barrier. I staked it down to the ground and tried to camp between brush, so a bear wouldn't be able to get close, unannounced.

Anyway, my opinion on bear protection is that you should bring whatever allows you to hike/sleep peacefully, so you have enough energy to have a good experience. Having said that, I don't think you actually NEED to use any of these things. When I camped at the backpacker overflow site in Tuolomne, someone fired a gun in the middle of the night to scare off the pesty campground bears. I was far more scared of the person with the gun than the bears.

Some guys we met and hiked with did bring a taser and pepper spray, which I think is overkill.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Bear Spray and Peace of Mind on 09/09/2009 11:16:55 MDT Print View

I think John nailed it. Your chance of being mauled is very small anywhere but if it makes the trip more enjoyable than its worth the peace of mind. I talked with a wildlife biologist who worked in Glacier. Bear spray does work and if I recall was actually first tested on black bears. Its not perfect but the only other alternative if a bear really charges is a gun which is 1)Heavy. 2)Illegal in Parks 3) Controversial and 4)Much harder for the Average Joe to us effectively.
Personally I'd say just carry the silly can of spray. It makes most people a tad more comfortable and thats nothing to sneer at.

Edited by Cameron on 09/09/2009 11:18:06 MDT.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Bear Spray and Peace of Mind on 09/09/2009 14:32:14 MDT Print View

Luke, unless I am mistaken it is now legal to carry firearms in National Parks if it is allowable in the state in which the park is located.

As a side note of personal experience, all of the encounters I have had with bears on hikes have ended the same way- bear sees hikers and bear runs...with or without assistance from hikers. The only time I have had a bear within what I would consider 'immediate threat range' neither spray nor firearm could have been brought to bear (yuk yuk) quick enough to save me from attack.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
You're Right Russell on 09/09/2009 19:47:03 MDT Print View

You're right Russell(I think) but my understanding was that this applies to people with a concealed carry permit so that limits things? I will confess my deep dark secret that I own and can comforablly shoot a .454 Alaskan (BIG handgun). Not sure if I'd lug the thing around though. Maybe in a really rainy area (rain knocks down Bear Spray). Gotta admit its a lot of fun to blast hunks of maneating concrete apart with the thing though!

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
recoil? on 09/10/2009 14:28:46 MDT Print View

Somebody warned about dis-information and man, have I seen some today. I've fired pepper spray AND handguns. No comparison. The spray recoil, if there is any, doesn't affect pointing accuracy.

0.2% concentration for self defense against humans? That may exist, but usually the concentration is the maximum allowed by state law. Anywhere from 2% to 10%. I have purchased 10% strength here in VA. I had one go off in my pocket once. It wasn't comfortable. I think I would have hated getting any on a mucous membrane.

Not having enough time to draw the spray. The manufacturer of my spray recommends firing it in the holster and that's how I've tested mine. You flick off the safety and fire from the hip.

Ineffectiveness firing into the wind. Isn't that like discussing the effectiveness of firing a pistol in a hail storm? OK, the effectiveness would be greatly reduced but what about when there isn't hail? Most of the time I've spent in the woods, I would say the breeze is light and variable, even when the wind is roaring in the treetops. In those conditions, the range of the spray is adequate at worst.

So much for my own personal experience. I do have an anecdote from someone who claimed to have run off a bear that was exhibiting stalking behavior. It was not terribly heartening. He said the bear paused, as if he was trying to remember whether or not spicy food agreed with him, and then ambled off. It left me thinking that an angry mother or even a starving bear would have made a different choice.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
for black bear country I leave it at home on 09/10/2009 19:31:27 MDT Print View

most of my hiking is done in grizzly country and I always carry spray, occasionally I hike in country that is grizzly (but not black bear) free and I leave the spray at home

I agree w/ that knowing how to hike in bear country is far and away the best thing you can "carry" w/ you into the field

I feel that I should share that I don't dismiss black bears as completely harmless- my only bad encounter w/ a bear (I've had dozens of grizzly and black bear encounters- most courtesy of working in the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness) was w/ a predatory male black bear. If I said I wasn't afraid or unnerved I would be lying- it wasn't a pleasant experience. These however are VERY rare incidents, but I can see where someone might want the peace of mind of carrying spray in black bear country- if you sleep better at night it's well worth the 13.1 oz :)