Whenever you’re going hiking, camping, fishing or for that matter anywhere into bear territory, ensuring you have the essential gear with you is absolutely crucial to your safety. Included in this essential gear should be a canister of bear spray, because in an emergency situation it could ultimately save your life.
Most bear attacks occur when a bear is surprised at close range. If you’re out hiking or camping you can let a bear know you’re in the area by making loud noises every so often. Bears are also attracted to smell so if you are carrying any food or products with a strong scent you may be inviting an unexpected visitor.
If you are ever presented with a situation where a bear is approaching or charging you, you’ll need to know how to use bear spray. Bear spray is supposedly known to be far more effective than a gun.
According to a study conducted by bear biologists at Brigham Young University, bear spray was found to be effective 92 percent of the time whereas that number was only 67 percent for firearms.A gunshot wound will cause the bear to become more aggressive since they sense an immediate danger to their lives. On the other hand, bear spray will force the bear to retreat and will not cause any prolonged damage.
Below are some tips on how to effectively use bear spray:
1. Make sure it really is bear spray
The first step is to ensure you are carrying actual bear spray and not pepper spray intended for use on humans and dogs. Regular pepper spray usually has a different spray pattern and comes in smaller canisters which can make them ineffective for use on bears. Remember, bear spray can still be used on larger animals such as elks, cougars, and coyotes.
2. Check the expiration date
Next, you want to make sure to check the expiry date on the canister, most bear sprays have a shelf life of up to 2 to 3 years. An expired bear spray is not going to function or spray properly and is a liability to your safety, so double check if you have to.
3. Carry a holster
Having something like a holster to carry your bear spray in a convenient location will enable you to have it readily accessible when you need it. After all, you don’t want to be a victim of a bear attack because you left your bear spray in your backpack. You want to keep the holster clipped to your belt or hip so it stays on you at all times.
4. Practice your quick draw and aim
When faced with a bear attack you’re going to be nervous which can cause you to fumble and drop the bear spray. Make sure you have a good strong grip on the canister and that you practice aiming beforehand. Inertly practice removing it from the holster, switching the safety tab, and firing.
5. Hold the bear spray correctly
When using bear spray you want to ensure you have both hands on the canister. Place one hand on the trigger and the other on the cylinder. Keep your hands steady and aim slightly downwards to prevent the spray from going over the bears head.
6. Don’t run!
Okay, let’s say you have an encounter with a bear; your immediate response will be to run. Running from a bear is dangerous and will spark the predator-prey response, not to mention bears can reach incredibly fast speeds. If you need to move toward the opposite direction, back up slowly.
7. Use short bursts
Be sure to use only short bursts as a regular canister of bear repellent only has 6-8 seconds of spray duration and you may need to use it more than once.
8. Spray at a range of 12-15 feet
If the bear is casually approaching you it’s best to deploy at a range of 12 to 15 feet. However, if you encounter a full on charging bear you want to deploy the spray when the bear is around 30 feet away. This will form a cloud and if the bear still does not retreat after running through it, you want to spray again targeting the ocular area.
9. Use effective body language
Using a firm stance will show the bear that you are taking a stand. Bears react to body language and presenting yourself in a battle like position will notify the bear that you are not intimidated. Loudly yelling STOP will also shock the bear in addition to the bear spray and force it to retreat.
If on the other hand you encounter a passive bear you’ll want to remain calm and gently go back to the direction you came from.
10. Leave the area immediately
Once you have effectively used the bear spray to deter an attack it’s time for you to leave the area immediately. Remember the effects of bear spray will only last up to around 45 minutes and if you don’t leave the area promptly, you could end up facing a retaliation attack.
It’s important to know how to use bear spray but it’s also important to understand that it’s really your last line of defense. Understanding and practicing safe travel when you’re in bear country is the best way to prevent any surprise encounters. Ultimately, they don’t want to have a run in with you as much as you don’t with them. And remember, it’s their home we’re just visitors.
If you enjoyed reading this article please be sure to share it and if you’d like to add to the discussion feel free to leave a comment below.