How to Effectively Use Bear Spray

Bear Spray is the go-to defense for those who live in bear country, but how can you use it effectively? Here are some tips to consider.

Bear spray is a non-lethal defense tool that can be used on humans to defend against bears. It works by releasing a chemical into the air that irritates the eyes, nose, and throat of an attacking bear. The chemical also causes temporary blindness in the bear.

Comic show how to use bear spray effectively.

Donald Zimmerman, 71, was running near Pillar Mountain west of Kodiak, Alaska, earlier this month. He was surrounded by berry bushes that were just beginning to ripen, and he was well aware that he may come across bears, which is why he was carrying bear spray.

Just before the assault, he saw the bear out of the corner of his eye. Zimmerman was attacked before he could get the spray out, but he did manage to uncap and release it during a short respite from the fighting, frightening the bear away. According to authorities, the bear spray saved his life.

While bear assaults are unpredictable (and rare), the results of victims using bear spray are. Spray was shown to inhibit “unwanted actions” in 92 percent of instances in one research. After having a close contact with a bear, 98 percent of persons who carried bear spray were unharmed.

The final line is that bear spray is effective. But, like any tool, it requires skill to use well; you shouldn’t simply purchase a can, throw it in your pack, and forget about it until you’re confronted with a 700-pound grizzly. 

Bear spray is similar to regular pepper spray in that it sprays considerably further and for a longer length of time. If you’re going into bear territory, you’ll need to learn how to use bear spray. Fortunately, many bear spray manufacturers now provide inert training cans, allowing you to test their efficacy before heading out on the trail. One of the things they’ll advise you is to keep your bear spray in a highly accessible area, such as holstered on your belt; you don’t want it buried deep within your pack when you need it.

Also, have a look at our other bear encounter safety advice. 

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Ted Slampyak created the artwork.



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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you properly use bear spray?

A: When you are attacked by a bear, its important to keep your distance from the animal so that it does not have time to react. If the bear becomes aggressive and begins circling around you or charges at you then spraying its face with pepper spray will help stop them in their tracks.

At what distance should you use bear spray?

A: In most cases, the best range for bear spray is about five feet. However, it can vary depending on the individuals size and weight as well as their location in relation to predators.

Do you run after spraying bear spray?

A: Bear spray is a pepper-based aerosol, meaning that it will not harm me in the slightest.

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