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Guardian Self Defense and Security Blog

Being Aware Of Bear Safety

Bear pepper spray is an important tool in preventing attacks during animal encounters with bears. It is proven effective in deterring North American bears, but just as any tool it does have to be used correctly and can be affected by environmental factors such as wind and rain. When choosing a bear spray it is critical to remember personal defense sprays are not the same as EPA approved bear spray. It is true that the active ingredient in both is the same (oleoresin capsicum). So be aware if your spray states something like a 10%, 15% or 18% oleresin capsicum concentration, it is human pepper spray NOT bear spray. The EPA regulates bear spray in the United States, so look for the EPA registration numbers found on the can or label. Please note that only bear spray will have this information. In 1999, the Center for Wildlife Information conducted a survey among bear management specialists, outfitters, guides, and people who had been involved in bear attacks and here are the reported findings.
  • The recommended minimum spray distance recommended was 25 feet. During a bear attack they will often charge from a distance. Experts want a spray to create a wide barrier between you and the bear. This will maximize the amount of time the spray comes in contact bear’s eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
  • The suggested minimum spray time was 6 seconds. This is the amount of time it takes to drain the cannister and discharge all contents. Anything less is unlikely to provide the necessary protection against situations such as:
    Multiple bears attacking from different directions(mother with large cubs, mating pairs, siblings traveling together);
    Repeated attacks (some bears will charge toward you, retreat, and charge again);
    Defense against a bear that comes after you after you sprayed to stop it from attacking another person;
    Very aggressive bears, a mother protecting her cubs or food);
    Being startled or scared can cause erratic spraying and wasting of bear spray;
Bear spray is a good, effective last line of defense. But nothing is a substitute for being proactive, prepared, and following general bear safety recommendations. Never intentionally approach a bear because you think you will be safe because you’re carrying bear spray. Never approach and spray a passive bear to try to get it to leave the area. Bear spray is only meant to be used on charging or attacking bears. Bear spray
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