We have a lot of inquirers about bears and bear spray. Even though we have never had a human bear encounter in the 28 years we have been in the Bob, we do see them occasionally. People ask about bear spray. We do have it on hand in camp in case somebody would like to carry it with them. If you do carry it you need to know how to use it. Not rocket science but here are some pointers and a couple of videos.
Our Great Bear Spray Experiment
One beautiful summer evening a group of fishermen from Texas were enjoying the campfire at our Salmon Forks Camp in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Talk turned to grizzly bears and the merits of different types of bear protection. The talk centered on the 2 main choices; guns or bear spray. The debate always has pro’s and con’s for each side. We always have several cans of bear spray in camp for guests to use, noticing one was “outdated”, we decided to test it out! We wanted to see how close the bear would have to be, and how long the spray lasted.
The air was still, so we singled out a small fir tree as the “victim” at the edge of the meadow, and Tom was chosen to be the “bear bait”. Standing about 15 feet from the tree, he lunged forward and fired off the bear spray. We all counted off the seconds- FYI- 9 seconds (just like the can said). Active ingredient, capsaicin, turned the tree red and you could smell the pepper. A lively discussion followed with surprise about how close the “bear” really did have to be before spraying.
After about 15 minutes we began to walk back to the campfire. Remember, I said the air was still….as we walked towards the fire, we unknowingly walked into the spray cloud! Believe it when the can says, causes severe airway irritation! We gasped for air, coughed until we gagged and our throats turned hoarse, and still we coughed and gagged some more!! Our conclusion: Believe it when the can says do not spray when the wind is blowing towards you! Believe it also, when the can says to wait until the bear is 15-20 feet away from you!
Update on bear spray: we recently saw this on TV:
Make 2 quick sweeping sprays to make a wall of spray between you and the bear, each spray lasting approximately 1 second. That way you still have another 5-7 seconds of spray left in the can should you need to spray again at the, by now, really close bear! Lastly, they have “dummy cans” you can buy to practice with to avoid getting yourself in the situation we found ourselves in!!! Good idea!
Know what kind of bear you are dealing with!
Check out these two videos on how to use Bear spray.