Bear Repellent

Hiking in Glacier National Park without bear repellent puts the lives of your entire hiking party at risk.

The fact is, Glacier National Park is prime grizzly bear habitat. Although they’re not aggressive toward humans by nature, grizzly bear attacks happen.

In the event of encountering an aggressive grizzly bear, bear spray is the only proven deterrent.

 

What Is Bear Repellent

Bear spray is a highly condensed form of pepper spray that has a range of 15-20 feet. Only canisters that are EPA approved can guarantee your survival in the event of a grizzly bear attack. If a canister doesn’t have an EPA stamp of approval, don’t buy it.

Using Bear Spray

Just because you have bear spray does not mean you will be safe in the event of a grizzly bear attack. It’s vital to your safety that you know how and when to use the spray:

  • Have the repellent easily accessible – Burying the canister in your backpack won’t help you. The best location for your bear spray is in one of your backpack’s water bottle holders at the back of your hip belt, or attached to a chest holder
  • Don’t use the spray immediately – Understand proper survival tips for reading a bear’s body language and surviving a grizzly bear attack.
  • Calmly reach for the spray – If you encounter an aggressive grizzly bear, don’t make a sudden lurch for the spray. Be calm, remain cool, and slowly back away.
  • Take note of the wind – If the wind is blowing in your face, the bear spray will be useless and only cause you harm.
  • Fire a warning shot – If the bear is displaying aggressive behavior, spray a warning shot in it’s direction.
  • If the bear charges, spray like a madman in a 30 degree arc toward the charging bear.

Bear Spray Or Gun?

Believe it or not, bear spray is a better grizzly bear repellent than a gun. In fact, Bear Spray successfully deters an aggressive grizzly bear 90% of the time.

There are numerous reasons for this:

  1. Bear spray is easier to aim and shoot than a gun
  2. Guns are only successful if it is at least a 22 caliber
  3. Guns are illegal in National Parks

Why Is Bear Spray Successful?

Although there are no statistics to prove why bear spray is so successful in deterring a grizzly bear attack, I have a few personal beliefs:

  1. People won’t run in the event of a grizzly bear encounter. Bear spray provides hikers with a mindset of safety while hiking in grizzly bear habitat. Thus, they better adhere to successful strategies in preventing an attack.
  2. The spray’s duration – Bear repellent will shoot for a minimum of six seconds. Most commonly, it has about fifteen seconds of use, giving a greater room for error.
  3. The spray’s distance – Bear spray can shoot up to twenty feet, deterring a grizzly bear in the beginning, or even before, it charges.

Purchasing Bear Repellent

While bear spray is available at Glacier National Park Gift Shops (or any National Park gift shops where you have a chance of encountering a grizzly bear), you are going to pay exorbitant prices.

Plus, by shopping beforehand, you have a few choices in brands so you can find the best priced bear deterrent to meet your needs:

  • Counter Assault Bear Deterrent – While more expensive than other options, Counter Assault is one of the most trusted bear spray brands (used by Wildlife Specialists & Law Enforcement) and is the canister I carry with me whenever I am in Grizzly Bear Habitat
  • Guard Alaska Bear Repellent – It has good reviews, but weighs two more pounds than Counter Assault, which is extra weight you will be lugging through the backcountry
  • UDAP Magnum Bear Spray – This comes with a hipbelt allowing you easy access to your bear spray and weighs less than all other options

More Grizzly Bear Attack Information

Have you seen a grizzly bear while hiking? Share your story!

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Comments

  1. Are you sure you mean 22 Caliber?

    Also, Do you know what the prices for bear spray are in the park? That would be really useful info.

    Thanks!

    • Perry Rosenbloom says:

      I could be mistaken. That’s the info I had gathered at the time regarding 22 Caliber. Do you have any info you can share?

      Bear spray prices in (or around) the park are $40-60.

      • I’ve read of attacks that have been stopped on occasion by a round as small as a 22, but they don’t have the stopping power that most people would deem effective. I think most guidelines call for at least a .38 if not higher. For a length discussion of the merits of various firearms and rounds you can read more here — http://www.chuckhawks.com/firearms_defense_bears.htm

        I agree with the conclusion that for back country bear protection, bear spray is the clear winner, weighing less than most firearms and being able to repel without requiring sprecise shooting in a time of stress.

  2. Ben Kibbey says:

    Some quick thoughts on the guns portion:

    First, obviously it’s a better repellent than a gun. Guns don’t repel bears; they kill them. Bears don’t know what a gun is, so, no repellent effect. Knives, bows and ICBMs are equally unqualified at repelling bears.

    I’m not sure what your basis for the aiming and shooting thing is, but a gun will be effective out to any distance at which a bear decides to charge; repellent goes out to 30 feet. At 41 miles per hour – the fastest speed a grizzly has been clocked running – that would take 0.5 seconds. That is a very small window. Additionally, in the 10% of cases where repellent might fail, a gun as a back-up would not be the worst thing.

    If you are shooting with anything smaller than .22 caliber, you are probably using an air rifle. That is the caliber people use for hunting rabbit and squirrel, and I am only aware of one commercially-produced caliber that is smaller. People have killed attacking bears with .22 pistols, but it is by no means the best option. Most guns marketed to people like Alaskan bush pilots for just that kind of thing run .45-70, but a perfectly effective firearm of a size and weight similar to a can of bear spray could be easily carried. A Ruger .38 SP +P revolver weighs 13.5 oz.

    If someone chooses to have a gun, they should be very familiar with it and reasonably comfortable with the idea of handling it under stress, as well as aware where caliber effectiveness meets personal requirements. But, simply, a poorly aimed bullet in the leg of a bear is going to do more than a poorly aimed spray of bear repellent hitting the same region.

    Loaded guns have been legal to carry in all National Parks since 2010, though not on Army Corpse of Engineers land.

    Personally, I can understand encouraging people that even if they choose to have a gun, to also have a can of repellent, leaving the gun for absolute necessity. Simply, if you can avoid killing a Grizzly bear, that would definitely be the thing to do. And, if that was your motivation for discouraging gun use, I am sympathetic to your feelings. But, facts are facts regardless how we feel about them.

    • Perry Rosenbloom says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very well thought out and I agree with your thoughts with one exception:

      ‘… a poorly aimed bullet in the leg of a bear is going to do more than a poorly aimed spray of bear repellent hitting the same region.’

      Bear spray is highly pressurized and designed to shoot out a massive stream to cover a wide area. Provided it is aimed toward the bear, if it hits the bears leg, it will also get into its eyes and nostrils, blinding it momentarily and making it very painful and difficult to breathe. It’s essentially very powerful pepper spray that is designed to impact a large radius.

      That is why I strongly recommend bear spray over a gun, as anyone with a can of spray in their hand can effectively use it to prevent a grizzly bear attack and deter a charging bear.

      Also — The vast majority of bear charges are meant to intimidate. When a bear charges you, it is saying, ‘YO! Get the hell away. NOW!’. Unless it’s a grizzly that is very hungry, hurt or a sow with cubs, a bear charge will likely only be a charge.

      By using a gun to deter a charge, you are essentially killing the bear just for the bear telling you to get the hell away. By using bear spray, both parties can escape (relatively) unscathed.

      • Ben Kibbey says:

        I am familiar with bear spray and have even witnessed “tests” involving 150-pound humans. A direct hit to the face is very effective, but it is also possible to not hit directly in the face even of a human and even with that wide of a cone, especially at max range. If you are panicking and shooting it as soon as the bear starts moving, and if a bear is truly enraged, I would question if the simple smell of it in an area where the mist still hangs is going to absolutely deter a bear.

        Simply, there is no argument for reliability versus a gun except if the person is so unfamiliar with the gun that they have no business carrying it loaded anyway, especially if there is any kind of wind.

        But, at the end of the day, the point of being out there like that in a National Park is to enjoy something that past generations have secured for us and we want to secure for the next generation. So, I would hope that the last thing anyone exploring a National Park would ever want to do is kill an animal they can avoid killing, especially those of limited numbers.

        The greatest advantage to bear spray over a gun is always going to be, simply, it doesn’t kill the bear.

  3. JOHN ROCKWOOD says:

    What stores in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming or Montana carry ◾Counter Assault Bear Deterrent.

    I would be driving from SLC to Glacier? They don’t allow it on the plane.

    Thanks!

    • Perry Rosenbloom says:

      Hi John,

      You can get Counter Assault Bear Spray at concessionaires inside the park. Plenty of stores outside carry it, too. Stop in Kalispell and you’ll be able to get it anywhere.

      Have fun!

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