Bear spray canister copy/pasta

One thing I’ve noticed in the past few years is an increased bearanoia.

But even more pronounced in the past year or so? People are bringing bear spray into black bear country.

The rule is not absolute, but the more experience a person has in the backcountry, the less likely they are to take bear spray where only black bears roam.

Standard bear precautions are more than acceptable.

Per the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committe:

bear spray is not a substitute for following proper bear-avoidance safety techniques and that bear spray should be used as a deterrent only when facing an aggressive or attacking bear.

(Emphasis mine)

“Beah” canister

 

And though terrible incidents (rarely) happen, they typically occur in the wildland-urban interface areas than in the wilds.

Our research represents one of, if not the longest-running and earliest comparative studies of a black bear population at wildland–urban interface and wildland areas in North America.

As the population increased, we observed:

1) increasing human–bear conflicts in areas where several generations of people had lived in almost total absence of bears (70–80+ years);

2) changes in attitudes by the public toward bears and in the social realm regarding garbage management; and

3) changes in the demographics, behavior, and ecology of this bear population, due to an increasing human footprint on the landscape

I am more likely to get into an accident on the way to the trail than any black bear encounters while hiking.

In any case, more people seemed concerned about black bears and insist on taking bear spray into the backcountry because it is “better to have it and not need it.” A trope I’ve argued against previously. Many unprepared people take a low-grade weapon essentially with no training, practice, or awareness of its proper use.

So now I have this copy/pasta I trot out more and more frequently. Perhaps it will make people think a bit more about what they may be committing to overall rather than carrying some extra weight.

__________

You’ll find that most experienced people in the black bear country say you don’t need it. Myself included.

However, I also recognize this issue can be an emotional one for many people. If you are part of the “better to have it and not need it” crowd, by all means, take it if it makes you feel better. But, and this is a very BIG but, please do the responsible thing and practice using it first.

Cabelas, REI, and similar sell inert training canisters for about $17 each. Get two or three canisters and practice in natural conditions holstering and unholstering it with your gear (poles included) and spraying in moderately windy conditions.

LEOs, rangers, game wardens, and even volunteer scientists (like my partner in Glacier) do this very thing in the backcountry as a required part of their training.

If you take a canister into the backcountry without knowing how to use the tool correctly, you are merely giving lip service to safety. At best, you’ll use the tool ineffectively when it counts. And you may accidentally harm yourself and others because of your lack of responsibility.

Do the right thing; if you take a bear spray canister, practice first.

(* While In-person training is always better for this type of skill, various organizations offer online 1 hr training classes to get you the basics before you practice in the field.)

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John Goering
John Goering
2 months ago

Bearanoia perhaps. I am one of those long time residents (70+ years) in the wildland/urban interface (we used to call it a ranch) and without any doubt the population of black bears has increased substantially in the last 3 decades or so. My wife and I have had numerous face-offs with black bears, several at less than 10 feet. All have ended well for all concerned but we still carry bear deterrent. Of more concern is the fact that you can now bump into a grizzly anywhere in western Montana, as the recent event in Ovando clearly illustrates. That event… Read more »

GroundHog
GroundHog
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

My own observation is that on the AT there’s been 16 murders, something like 50 heart attacks and just one day hiker eaten by a bear only after tripping, hitting his head on a rock, and passing out after his hiking group scattered. That particular bear was then killed a few days later. Bear spray whether used correctly or incorrectly would not likely have saved the nine or ten murder victims who were attacked while sound asleep, nor would it have helped the young man who hit his head and was knocked out. So by my count carrying less weight… Read more »

Walter Underwood
Walter Underwood
2 months ago
Reply to  John Goering

I love the word “bearanoia”. I’m gonna use that.

Walter Underwood
Walter Underwood
2 months ago

When teaching outdoor skills to new Scoutmasters, I tell them “just in case” is another way to say “I didn’t plan”. Or as Doug Prosser put it, “fear is heavy”. But planning and skills don’t weigh anything.

Chris Randall
Chris Randall
1 month ago

One problem we have in our part of Canada is that it’s often difficult to know where the interface is. Fly in fishing camps and hunting lodges as well as mining camps are not well known for their bear friendly garbage disposal, often providing opportunities for bears to associate human activities and food. Unfortunately many of our wild areas are not as wild as many of us would like.

Bill in Roswell GA
Bill in Roswell GA
1 month ago

I totally agree with you Paul. After Covid, so many new to mountain hiking invaded the north Georgia mountains. Stores (REI) couldnt keep bear spray or food canisters in stock. I don’t understand why the outdoor industry doesn’t promote the very tool that NFS and NPS rangers use on bears in campgrouds – an air horn. Ive been in several area campgrounds w bear issues where the ranger drove up, blasted the 110 db horn and scared off the bear. They say it works for bears not habituated to human food. I carry a mini air horn. On the AT… Read more »

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
21 days ago

I’ve never seen a black bear in the backcountry, despite frequent trips, and living in a state (Vermont) with a high density of black bears. On the other hand, I saw one a couple of years ago on a hill above the major highway on which I was driving, and I’ve heard multiple local reports of black bears getting into garbage cans from people living a mile or two from our edge-of-small-town/rural home. I use an Ursack when backpacking and keep an eye and ear open when hiking, but I would never carry bear spray anywhere in the Northeast. Grizzly… Read more »