Hikers Beware: How to Stop a Charging Bear in Washington
When used correctly, Bear spray is a highly effective deterrent to keep you safe from a charging bear or other large animal attack. Bear spray is a highly potent pepper spray designed to keep a bear away from you. Most sprays contain capsaicin, which comes from chili peppers. Capsaicin causes temporary blindness and discomfort in animals…and humans too.
When should I carry bear spray?
According to Backpackers.com, you should NEVER go on a hike in bear country without bear spray. And, don’t hike alone. The spray should be on your side in a holster or across your chest. You should be able to quickly and easily grab it. Keeping it in a backpack defeats the entire purpose – if a bear charges aggressively, you won’t have time to take your pack off and dig it out – too late.
The canisters shoot out a wide spray which creates a cloud of the irritant which will stop a charging bear and allow you time to back away, seek shelter, or remove yourself from the area. The spray will only deter the animal temporarily. Best case, the bear runs off. One thing to consider (if time permits) is wind direction. Spraying a cloud into a headwind could cause it to blow back into you or the group.
Bear spray isn’t a 100% guarantee of safety but it will at least give you a chance. Bear spray has saved hundreds of lives (bears included). Using a gun is not recommended and will likely create an angrier bear and a very serious situation for your safety. Learn as much as you can about bear behavior before you go, stay alert to your surroundings, make a lot of noise as you hike, travel in groups, and keep your food stored properly.
Bear spray should be used as a last resort and it’s important to use the product correctly. Always read and follow label directions. The National Parks Service has simple recommendations on how to use the deterrent. Also, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a great flyer with important tips. Check out the video below from YouTuber sergeydondish
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