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JMT and Bear Spray.
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(rps76) - F
JMT and Bear Spray. on 11/06/2011 23:00:00 MST Print View

For those who have done the JMT, did you take bear spray? According to this website (, bear spray is prohibited in national parks. Apparently the people who wrote this have never been to Yellowstone or Denali.

The reason I am asking: My fiance did some research being the safety nut that she can be sometimes and stumbled upon a few slide shows of people seeing bears while on the JMT. So now she wants to take it.

So is it illegal? Recommended?

Thanks for the help.

Edited by rps76 on 11/06/2011 23:02:49 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: JMT and Bear Spray. on 11/06/2011 23:37:56 MST Print View

Bear spray is good insurance when in brown bear country. There are no brown bears in California. Bear spray is expensive overkill for black bears.

Edit: You took the national park reference out of context. It refers to national parks in the Sierra (meaning, the Sierra Nevada).

I can't imagine why anybody would carry bear spray along the JMT.


Edited by --B.G.-- on 11/07/2011 00:28:01 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: JMT and Bear Spray. on 11/07/2011 01:03:13 MST Print View

You don't need to be that concerned with black bears. Carrying bear spray in the sierras would be like concealed carrying a handgun in a gated retirement community.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Overkill but... on 11/07/2011 05:49:20 MST Print View

Pepper spray might be overkill for CA but why ban it? Worst case scenerio some hikers get trigger happy and spray a bear that didn't really need to get sprayed. Okay he may not like the experience but no one gets hurt and a scared bear is less likely to get in trouble with people later.

Okay thats my rant back to the OP
If you can't have bear spray don't sweat it.
1. I rarely see bears in the backcountry. Your chances are higher along the JMT than on some of my areas but problems are extremely rare anywhere you go.
2. If I recall its legal to carey up to 3 or 4 oz of "Pepper Spray" in CA before you fall under concealed weapons laws. Not sure how this translates to Parks and it won't be as effective as a big can of true bear spray. If my wife was really nervous I'd just take the small spray in my pocket. Rangers aren't going to be doing TSA style pat downs. Not saying break the law just saying what I might do...

Edited by Cameron on 11/07/2011 06:57:26 MST.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
:) on 11/07/2011 06:49:28 MST Print View

Keep a clean camp, protect your food. Have not seen a bear since Pooch passed away. I only see them close to home, casing garbage cans out.
No, I have not done the whole JMT, like the rest of California, here and there.

Edited by hikerduane on 11/07/2011 06:50:16 MST.

Robert Perkins

Locale: The Sierras
"JMT and Bear Spray." on 11/07/2011 07:06:53 MST Print View

I have seen bears on most of my JMT hikes. It is a pretty cool experience. Don't bother with pepper spray. Don't sleep with food, pack a bear canister, and keep your camp clear of food and any trash and you will not be bothered.It is a treat to see them, and they are actually pretty stealthy at night.

JMT 2011

JMT 2011

Edited by rp3957 on 11/07/2011 07:08:56 MST.

Stephan Doyle
Re: JMT and Bear Spray. on 11/07/2011 09:22:17 MST Print View

If your website link is correct, bear spray is prohibited in over half the JMT.

Don't take it.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: JMT and Bear Spray. on 11/07/2011 10:28:51 MST Print View

Two friends and I hiked the JMT this year in August.

Never saw a bear....and I have never carried bear spray in the Sierras.

All the bears that I have seen in the Sierras seem to be chicken of people and take off at the sight of them.

Exception are the Yosemite Bears who will come and sit down at your picnic table with you to share a meal with you and ask you how your day went. :)


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Overkill but... on 11/07/2011 10:52:50 MST Print View

"Worst case scenerio some hikers get trigger happy and spray a bear that didn't really need to get sprayed. Okay he may not like the experience but no one gets hurt and a scared bear is less likely to get in trouble with people later."


Perhaps. But it is their habitat, so why screw with them? Practice safe hiking methods and they won't associate us with food.

I have been exposed to tear gas and it is very unpleasant.

Here is a description of how pepper spray affects people...

"Pepper Spray is an inflammatory agent that will incapacitate a person for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Pepper Spray causes coughing, choking, nausea, dilation of the capillaries causing temporary blindness, swelling of the mucus membranes causing trouble breathing and burning of the eyes!

Many of the personal defense sprays on the market today have pepper spray in their mix or only contain pepper spray, because it is effective against anyone, including people under the influence of drugs and alcohol."


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Overkill but... on 11/07/2011 12:33:44 MST Print View

I may not have been clear Nick. Yes I agree the main thing is practice good clean camping and avoid problems to begin with. I also would not approve of needlessly harressing wildlife in any way.
My arguement is more with the principal of the Parks policy. As long as the NPS thinks there are bears that are so bad they have to trap them and kill them than I want to at least have the legal option to defend myself.
Aside from that as long as they are putting bears down it seems allowing campers to spray them might save some bears from dying.

Having said all that and getting back on topic... has anyone heard of ANY serious bear attacks in the Sierras, or even CA? None comes to mind, seems they're all in other places.

(rps76) - F
Bear Spray on 11/07/2011 12:37:57 MST Print View

Personally, I see no reason to carry it. I like seeing animals. Like the black bear that decided to walk around our campsite outside of Bozeman. Poor guy was super bummed when all he found to eat were berries that were growing near us. And I thank everyone for agreeing with me. I can pull this thread up and show the lady.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Leave it at home on 11/07/2011 12:46:46 MST Print View

If you are careful with your food then your biggest concern will be whether you can get your camera out fast enough to get a picture if you are fortunate enough to see a bear. You are more likely to see bears in the valley around civilization than you are in the back country. I have seen a total of three bears while hiking well over a two thousand miles in the Sierra.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Its Cool on 11/07/2011 12:48:32 MST Print View

R.S. don't worry. In the Sierras you might actually get to see a bear. In other areas its more rare. Never had a problem, none of my friends had a problem, none of my friend's friend's had a problem. For what its worth anyway two people together is probably safer than being solo but like I said earlier I've never heard of a serious injury in the Sierras and this is with lots of bears and lots, and lots of people in the same place.

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Black vs Brown on 11/07/2011 12:59:48 MST Print View

Maybe things are different there, but up here in Canada there have been plenty of predatory attacks of black bears on humans. I would not choose to pass on bear spray simply because there are no grizzlies. Actually grizzlies are even less likely to be predatory and generally only attack if surprised with young.

But black bears occasionally have a tendency to go a little crazy.

I've personally had plenty of black bear encounters, always from a distance, and they usually either run away or stand and watch as you pass. I like seeing them like that. But I also know that just because I've only encountered the "good ones" doesn't mean I'll never have a bad encounter. Several news stories every year of attacks and deaths.

Edited by dasbin on 11/07/2011 13:04:11 MST.

Ceph Lotus
(Cephalotus) - MLife

Locale: California
Black Bear Attacks in California on 11/07/2011 13:01:56 MST Print View

"Having said all that and getting back on topic... has anyone heard of ANY serious bear attacks in the Sierras, or even CA? None comes to mind, seems they're all in other places."

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, there has been 12 recorded cases of black bear attacks in California since 1980, the last one in 2003. So the bear attacks are rare, but not unheard of.

Black Bear Attacks in California

There was a bear sighting within the city limits where I live just last week, though no incident occurred - the bear left.

Edited by Cephalotus on 11/07/2011 13:10:33 MST.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Spray on 11/07/2011 14:20:21 MST Print View

Dont bring it, wrong kind of bear

I've taken the trail, didn't see one bear. Someone close to me saw one playing with a bear box but I did not. Regardless, wrong kind of bear

Edited by Trout on 11/07/2011 14:38:16 MST.

Scott Smith
(mrmuddy) - MLife

Locale: No Cal
Bears in Ca on 11/07/2011 15:55:39 MST Print View

I've been backpacking in the Sierra's for 30 plus years.. Usually have , at least, one bear sighting .. per year..

Every single time, without exception . as soon as they see me ( having said that I'm always with , at least one other person) they take off running..

I think that the only time you'd need to worry, is if you came across a mom and her cubs.. Even then, a friend of mine and his daughters had this situation.. So .. they Stopped . waited @ 10 minuets .. then slowly took a big loop / detour around her . .without any incident.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Cubs w/mom on 11/07/2011 18:57:31 MST Print View

I've surprise a sow with cubs numerous times and they have taken off. One time the cubs climbed a tree while mom looked in my direction, but could not make me out. As soon as I shifted on my feet she zeroed in on me. Since my dog passed away, I seen more in the hood, trying to get garbage then I have seen in the wild. Keep them wild in bp country.

Ceph Lotus
(Cephalotus) - MLife

Locale: California
Bear Spray is Legal in California, But Not National Parks on 11/07/2011 19:39:55 MST Print View

Pepper spray, aka bear spray, is legal to carry in California, but is limited to 2.5 oz containers and is for self-defense situations only.

"In California, pepper spray is legal when used in self-defense situations, but must be carried in 2.5 oz or smaller containers. Because pepper spray has a variety of self-defense uses, California residents are permitted to carry it in these smaller containers. In a state with densely populated cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, pepper spray can be a useful tool for self-defense against human attackers and has prevented muggings, rapes, and other attacks. California also touts beautiful forests, natural landmarks, and vast wide-open spaces, so pepper spray can also be useful to hikers and outdoorsmen who may encounter mountain lions, bears, wild animals, dogs, and other potentially dangerous animals."

Also, I noticed the California Department of Fish and Game has a link directly from their website on where you can buy Bear Pepper Spray.

BUT the rules for National Parks appears to override the state regulations:

For Yosemite:

"The possession, use, or discharge of pepper spray (including bear spray), pellet guns, and BB guns in Yosemite National Park is prohibited."

Edited by Cephalotus on 11/07/2011 19:52:57 MST.

Ceph Lotus
(Cephalotus) - MLife

Locale: California
National Park Superintendents Have Authority To Allow Bear Spray on 11/07/2011 20:03:11 MST Print View

Boy, this is getting confusing now.

"While federal regulations seemingly prohibit bear spray in national parks outside of Alaska, park superintendents have the authority to override that ban within their parks, according to officials at Grand Teton National Park.

"Superintendent's commonly further define and/or clarify park-specific rules and regulations that are applicable to their park unit through a legal instrument called the 'Superintendent's Compendium,' said Grand Teton spokeswoman. "The Superintendent's Compendium is the legal document that Grand Teton NP uses to address and define the appropriate possession, and use, of bear pepper spray.

"Use of bear pepper spray to defend oneself from a threatening wildlife encounter is legal in Grand Teton according to the current Superintendent's Compendium which states, 'Bear pepper spray may be carried by individuals within Grand Teton National Park for the strict purpose of protecting oneself or others from bodily harm against aggressive wildlife," she continued. "Bear pepper spray must be registered with the EPA and individual states. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as "Bear Pepper Spray" and it must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.

"Furthermore, no person will be cited or contacted by park rangers if they are carrying --and if they ever need to deploy--bear pepper spray as a recommended use while traveling in the park's backcountry. Carrying bear pepper spray is not an illegal activity in Grand Teton National Park," said Ms. Skaggs."