Even if I forget to pay attention to what time of year it is, the seasonal influx of bear pepper spray and bear mace orders from those in bear country remind me that the bears are waking up from hibernation. I did notice my Canadian Geese have come back north and settled in our pond again, but if you frequent Yellowstone, Glacier National Park or any other areas inhabited by grizzly or black bears, you have no doubt noticed some of them stirring too.
Whether it is bear tracks, bear droppings, animal carcasses or an actual human-bear encounter, now is the time to pack the bear spray.
Coming out of hibernation, these bears are hungry and aggressive. Later on in the season, while still dangerous, bears are more peaceful unless there is an available food source. You do properly store your food while in the woods don’t you?
Since 1992, half of the people ended up injured from bear encounters when people defended themselves with a firearm, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services investigations. Those that defended themselves with bear formulated pepper spray ended up escaping injury most of the time, while those that were injured received less severe injuries and shorter attacks before the bears vacated the area.
Your best bear safety tip is to avoid the heavily bear populated area and heed all seasonal bear closure notices. Most of the time, the bear closures are only temporary, covering certain areas with increased bear activity that eventually lessens. If the park says stay out until June 15th or June 30th, wait until July. This is for your safety and the safety of your family, not the convenience of the park rangers.
This is still early on in the season, not all bears are out and about yet. And the temperatures may still be pretty cold in some areas. It is best to store your pepper spray for bears in a chest holster, which would keep the canister warmer than the frigid temperatures. Bear spray will still operate, but it may spray out slower and not quite as far. But make sure your bear spray is still readily accessible. You may only have a few moments to act, and you will not have time to dig it out from the bottom of your backpack.
I would always have at least 2 canisters on me, one readily available clipped to my hip or chest, and at least another can of bear mace in my pack. Have each person in your party carry the same. You never know if you are going to run in to one bear on your way in and one bear on your way out of the woods… If you do use at least a partial canister of bear spray, replace it when practical. You want a full 9 oz. can in the event you face a potential bear attack.
If you are deploying mace bear spray, take a quick account for the wind and adjust your aim accordingly. Pop the safety and aim towards the animal but slightly down, as the spray with fog out and upwards. Shoot off a brief warning shot when the bear is just out of range of your spray. If the bear continues advancing or charges, spray again creating a wall of fog between you and the bear so he runs into it.
Once the bear is distracted or turns away to wander off, immediately leave the area and seek shelter. Do not run, and do not take your eyes off the animal, but attempt to get back to your vehicle or nearby building or ranger station if available. Under no circumstances should you chase, follow or otherwise taunt the bear. Let him leave freely, and don’t give him a reason to return. Don’t forget to pull out your backup canister from your backpack and attach it to your hip or chest.
Campers, hunters, hikers, fisherman, and other outdoor enthusists be warned.
Watch out for the bear signs, check out the park webpage and as always, Be Safe, Be Prepared.
Related Blog Posts:
Pepper Spray for Lions, Tigers and Bears
Get the Bear Necessities
Pepper Spray for Bears – Hunters, Hikers, Campers be Warned
Woman Mauled by Bear, Yogi has Alibi
Not All Bears are Cute and Cuddly
When Bears Attack!
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