Pepper Spray is the Best Way to Protect Yourself from Bears
Guns provide you no more protection than pepper spray does
ALASKA – Using a gun to protect yourself against bears doesn’t make you safer, according to a new report by biologist Tom Smith, of Brigham Young University. Smith analyzed more than 250 aggressive encounters between bears in Alaska and people. He concluded that using caution and pepper spray were just as effective as using a firearm.
In Anchorage, a company that’s conducted hundreds of bear safety trainings says both guns and sprays have their place, but spray does have some advantages.
“Why we like bear spray is not because the spray will always do what you think it will do with the pepper,” says Learn to Return president Brian Horner. “It makes a lot of noise – which is one issue – but the biggest issue is you don’t run with bear spray, you don’t set off the attack.”
Bear spray works by deterring a bear from charging in the first place. It’s best used on a bear that is still several yards away, that you want to stay clear of people.
“So instead of letting that charge happen we are going to diffuse the charge,” says Learn to Returns’ Martin Farris. “We use bear spray to tell that bear that we are doing people stuff, you are doing bear stuff. We are going to stay here you are going to stay over there.
“Again, it’s a deterrent, not a stopper.’
Having the spray handy and using it in time are key says Farris.
“Will it stop a charge if a bears coming right after you and you blast him in the face? Maybe, but then again the bear has a high pain threshold and a bear that is moving at 35 miles an hour is not going to stop on a dime.”
The company says guns have their place in bear safety too, but anyone using a firearm for bear protection needs specific training. Shooting at the range is one thing, according to the company, but shooting at a charging animal under duress with any accuracy is another.
The Department of Fish and Game doesn’t take a position on which is better, but says knowledge is a big part of bear safety.