What Is Bear Spray?

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From a recent article about what to look for in a bear spray.

“Two grizzly-caused deaths near Yellowstone National Park this summer, combined with celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna’s bear spray encounter in Glacier National Park and the recent PBS documentary recounting the 1967 “Night of the Grizzlies” incident, have made bear protection a priority for backcountry visitors.

“Everyone sees the price of the big cans, and they ask, ‘Can’t I get a smaller one?’ ” Army Navy Economy Store manager Eric Langhammer said. This starts the ongoing discussion of what bear spray is and is not.

The first issue is that while bear sprays are a kind of pepper spray, not all pepper sprays are bear sprays. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifies only four manufacturers (including two in Montana) to make “bear spray.”

“When you say pepper spray, it is misleading,” said Tim Lynch of Universal Defense Alternative Products, the Bozeman-based bear spray maker. “Law enforcement spray is pepper spray, but it isn’t considered bear spray. You want people to pick up the correct product.”

The difference involves what’s in the can and how it’s meant to be used. Chemicals like Mace and other tear gas-type sprays have little effect on bears. The ingredient you’re looking for is oleoresin of capsicum, an extremely potent essence of chili peppers.

The second part involves how the spray is delivered. Bear sprays aren’t meant to be squirted directly on an oncoming bear. Instead, the idea is to throw up a misty wall of irritants for the bear to run into.

“When a bear decides to charge, it’s gathering information as it charges,” said Chuck Bartlebaugh, who heads the Be Bear Aware campaign for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. “What it hears, sees, smells – it’s all part of the charge. Bear spray removes their focus. They don’t like losing their ability to smell and see. They don’t like the whooshing noise and the orange cloud.”

Some thought should go into the spraying action, too. Bartlebaugh demonstrated how one-handed use of a canister’s thumb-trigger tends to tilt the spray upward. The suggested tactic is to aim flat or down at a space between you and the bear, preferably at least 25 feet away. That helps ensure the bear runs into the cloud instead of under it.

Bear spray canisters fire a shotgun pattern cloud that travels out like long-distance wasp spray. But sprayers still need to be aware of wind direction and rain, which can limit the spray’s range. Some of the manufacturers are still disputing how long and far the cans should discharge.

Nevertheless, a 2006 study found that only 2 percent of those using bear spray in a bear attack were injured, compared to 50 percent of those who depended on a firearm to defend themselves.

“We have a whole generation of people thinking it’s OK to approach bears,” Bartlebaugh said. “In shark country, if you holler ‘shark,’ everyone gets out of the water. In the bear world, if you holler ‘bear,’ everybody runs into the woods.”

Keep your eye on the ball and get the right product that will protect you.

Our Frontiersman Bear Spray is one of only a few bear sprays that is EPA approved and will shoot up to 35 feet away.

Guardian Self-Defense & Security Products LLC is one of the largest most trusted online distributors of non-lethal self-defense items and surveillance equipment in the US. We specialize in premium pepper spray, mace, personal alarms, stun batons and more. We are “The Self Defense Product Experts”!

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