Bear spray is a useful tool that can help protect humans and bears in limited circumstances. If a bear isn’t serious about mauling, killing, and/or eating the human, the spray can convince it to stop investigating the human and leave them alone. But the ability of spray to stop bears bent on attack is far less certain. Here are two more cases where bear spray failed and bullets were necessary. From kxlo-clcm.com . . .
A lone female grizzly bear reportedly surprised a man hunting elk at Big Creek north of Gardiner on Oct. 28. The hunter reported to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks that he came upon the bear feeding on a carcass in the brush and that the bear charged him. The hunter said he first used bear spray to deter the attack then shot the bear in self defense.
The second incident was reported on Oct. 31 by a group of elk hunters who said they came upon and surprised a female grizzly bear with two young bears at Johnson Lake near West Yellowstone. The hunters said they first used bear spray on the charging bear but, as the bear continued to approach, they reportedly shot the bear in self defense.
I have a friend who is a mail carrier. We had a conversation about the effectiveness of pepper spray on preventing attacks by dogs. (“Dogs and bears, which diverged some 50 million years ago, are 92 percent similar on the sequence level,” nationalgeographic.com reports.) My postal carrier friend said that the stereotype of dogs attacking postmen is dead on accurate. It’s a challenge he faces everyday. Then he gave this assessment of the effectiveness of pepper spray.
If a dog has made up his mind to bite you, the spray does not work. If the dog is ambivalent about actually attacking you, the spray can have a deterrent effect.
FWIW, several peace officers have said the same thing about men.The fact is that firearms are much more effective at stopping aggressive bears than is bear spray. The reputation of bear spray is built on its use on non-aggressive bears that are merely curious, and/or far too habituated to the presence of humans.
The conundrum here: bears that are that habituated to humans are a serious threat that should be eliminated. They may be dissuaded by bear spray now, but in the future, when they are hungrier, larding up for hibernation or are being more territorial, they will likely cause a serious problem for another human. So bear spray just puts the problem off on someone else in the future, perhaps someone who does not have bear spray or a firearm.
The responsible thing to do: put down bears that are habituated to humans before they become a deadly problem for someone else. Transporting them does not work.
This leaves the rare wilderness circumstance where a bear has never seen a human before and needs to be taught that they are best left alone. Bear spray might serve in that circumstance.
Bear spray also serves as something of a defense for those who have a psychological fear of firearms, those who are willing to transport a holstered bear spray container but not a holstered pistol, or who are forbidden by various governments from having a dependable means of defense. Which is a dangerous practice, but better than nothing. Maybe.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.