Mar 30, 2008 at 9:47 pm #1228073
@hechoendetroitLocale: South KakMar 30, 2008 at 10:38 pm #1426298
I would like BPL readers to advise whether they think it worthwhile to carry Bear Spray on the JMT trail. Let's presume the carriers will be following all proper bear safety practices (re: cannister, use of it, nothing smelly in tents, etc). I have carried Bear Spray on the High Sierra Trail and have not needed it although it made me feel safe at times. I have had bear encounters about 5 times on the trail but never been attacked. But I've heard of one older person being bit by a Black Bear cub on the JMT in the last 1-3 years.Mar 31, 2008 at 12:09 am #1426314
@legkohodLocale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Very useful article, thanks! Next question: where can one buy bear spray, and does it work on other animals, such as wild dogs?Mar 31, 2008 at 12:52 am #1426319
Or moose?!Mar 31, 2008 at 1:28 am #1426322
It's likely hard to find in Europe. The two or three manufacturers I know of are US or Canadian. Bear spray is a flammable item and must be sent via surface (ground) shipping. No air shipping or international addresses, so you would have to find a manufacturer on your side of the world. Maybe somebody makes it in Russia?
I only consistently carry bearspray in griz country, although you could potentially run across the wrong black bear sometime. They are pretty timid in Idaho where they are hunted.Mar 31, 2008 at 4:34 am #1426326
@back2basicsLocale: Southeast USA
I see a lot of posts on here about bears and how to live with and without them. All good stuff.
We have a bear population in the southeast that appears to be quite different from those I read of in the western and northern states. We only have blacks and browns. The only grizzlies I know of play basketball in Memphis. Everyone I know in these parts who has a "bear encounter" always involves the bear running away, with no threat. I went to Big South Fork NP for the first time last weekend. When talking the rangers, they didn't have many answers. The demonstration of my Bear Vault surprised the two I spoke with. Neither of them had seen one. They only knew of hanging bags of food from trees. When I asked about repellent spray, they just looked at each and one said "Sure. Why not?". I was a bit disturbed that my showing them a canister was an educational lesson, considering they spend a lot more time out there than I do.
Do you folks in the SE US carry spray? Have you ever felt threatened enough to use it?Mar 31, 2008 at 7:53 am #1426337
@ohbejoyfulLocale: Greenville, SC
I saw a handful of black bears at once in SW Virginia and then 4 seperately in the Shenandoah NP, and yeah, they all split pretty quickly. I wasn't carrying and haven't carried BS, and it's not a dumb idea, but they definitely weren't interested in whatever I was up to.Mar 31, 2008 at 8:28 am #1426341
@cooldripLocale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
I don't carry spray or a food canister when I'm hiking in the South, but I will say the only predatory attacks I'm familiar with occured in this area. One in the Smokies involving a sow and yearling cub killing and feeding upon a female hiker; another in eastern Tennessee involving a child. This second incident occured with a number of people in the immediate vicinity.
These are isolated incidents, but they speak to the potential dangers. Especially in the Smokies, where there are approximately 1600 bears and 10,000,000 annual visitors. Lots of potential habituation issues, and the bears here are the most aggressive I've seen outside the Sierras.Mar 31, 2008 at 8:43 am #1426345
A moose is usually fearless.
A moose will try to "Stand Down" an oncoming train.
A moose goes over and through whatever it wants.
If you are the subject of it's anger, spray won't make any difference.
"Back away. Back away from the Moose NOW!"Mar 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm #1426416
@hechoendetroitLocale: South KakMar 31, 2008 at 5:04 pm #1426418
@rinconLocale: Desert Southwest
Interesting that none of the recorded fatalities occurred in the Sierra or even in the State of California. Considering the relatively large black bear population in the Sierra, and their potential for becoming human habituated, one would expect more than zero fatal encounters.Mar 31, 2008 at 5:26 pm #1426426
I have long known that there are no recorded deaths by black bear in California. What is less known is the extent of types of injuries by black bear against hikers who "follow the rules" on the JMT or HST (High Sierra Trail) or PCT.Mar 31, 2008 at 5:36 pm #1426429
Steve, thanks for the link. A couple of links from that link I found this very interesting paragraph. Presuming that the Black Bears on the JMT are no worse than that of Yellowstone, it appears that safer behavior by humans means a near-zero injury risk. (but not zero, of course, — the elderly man bit by a Bear on the JMT awhile back was resting mid-day and there is nothing noted in the writeup that he had food out of his pack.) Still, this is very reassuring news.
Injuries to Humans – Black Bears
Human injuries from black bears have decreased from averages of 46 per year from 1931 through 1969, to 4 per year during the 1970's and less than one (0.2) per year from 1980 through 1997. Undoubtedly, some minor injuries were not reported by park visitors.
Only 5 of the 43 injuries caused by black bears from 1970 – 1997 were in backcountry areas, and 2 of these were from females "defending cubs." Thirty-four injuries were from black bears along roadsides as a result of visitors getting too close while attempting to feed, take pictures, or get a better view of bears. Three injuries were from black bears in developed areas, and 1 injury was during a bear-relocation accident.Mar 31, 2008 at 10:17 pm #1426478
@redleaderLocale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
In the 40 plus years I've backpacked, all but one of the back country black bear encounters I have had have resulted in the bear high-tailing it away as soon as it saw me. The one encounter with (drive in campground) bears was resolved by bouncing rocks off the bear as he/she/it ran for cover. That kept the bears (2 of them) out of camp until we all (14 of us) went to bed. Our food and smellables were secured out of bear reach and we left our empty packs lying about. The bears prowled through camp all night but didn't disturb my sleep, though some of our group were jittery.Mar 31, 2008 at 11:14 pm #1426484
Dennis, I have read all the books on bears currently in print and realize that in groups, bears stay away. Being in a group of 14 is absolute safety. My problem is my hiking partner walks much faster than me and during the day I end up hiking alone so my bear encounters have been typically me meeting two other bears or one other bear, much different situation. I have had to wait about 30 minutes at one place for the bears to go on their merry way. At night though there are at least 2 of us (sometimes 3 or more if others are camping there as well). I need to find a hiking group to have more join the hikes with us. How did you connect with 13 others for a same itinery (how many days)?Apr 24, 2008 at 8:23 am #1429954
Jolly Green GiantParticipant
Does anyone recommend a particular manufacturer of Bear Spray or cannister size? I've found quite a few different types online, many of which are fairly sizeable and last only for a few short seconds which doesn't seem terribly appealing to carry for that very unlikely bear-attack-moment.
I too have come across a handful of bears in my travels, but they definitely seemed more scared of me based on the fact that they either ran away or shot up a tree. Those moments taught me valuable lessons, however. (1) They saw me long before I saw them. PAY ATTENTION! (2) I can't outrun a bear. I've heard they can run around 35mph which is the same speed as a race horse. And (3) I can't outclimb a bear as one was up a tree before I could take two steps. From my readings, the best thing to do is slowly walk away while facing the bear, talk to it quietly and calmly, and if it charges…play dead…unless you're getting seriously hurt….in which case fight back in an effort to save your own life.Apr 24, 2008 at 8:54 am #1429961
James, my understanding about the "play dead" strategy is to do that only with a Grizzly. I've read everything I can about Black Bears and the strategy there is to appear as large and non-threatening (but not afraid) as you can and to slowly back away. The idea is to let the bear know you are not a threat but to also let the bear know you aren't afraid and that you're a big fella if the bear wants to take you on.Apr 24, 2008 at 10:35 am #1429975
to add another thought. Most park rangers that I know that worked in Yosemite said…the black bears like pepper spray!
It works on Grizzly bears…but the black bears you would need one of those sprays that also has the tear gas included and might as well add the dye…that way if you were attack lol you have marked that bear with bright dye.
I carried one both times on the JMT …but not for bears.
Just for fun…
In addition to wearing bells and carrying pepper spray while hiking in Grizzly country, it is critical that one be able to distinguish black bear scat from grizzly scat. Black bear scat is found in little black piles, about eight inches wide, along the trail. Grizzly scat is much larger, usually has little bells in it, and smells like pepper.
— Posted by The Outdoors Guy
On a more serious note however…
Interesting and informative article and comments. I spent 30 years as a national park service ranger at 8 parks, including Glacier NP in Montana where both black bears and grizzlies are native.
Similar conclusions are found in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife article “Bear Spray vs. bullets” found at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly /bear%20spray.pdf .
It is important to note that the “personal defense” pepper sprays widely sold for use against humans is NOT the same product as bear pepper spray. The “human” version is not effective against bears for many reasons, including the capacity of the canister and the distance at which the spray is delivered. Unfortunately, based on a limited, informal survey, a significant number of hikers in parks like Glacier seem to be carrying the “human” version of pepper spray, and thus have a false sense of security.
The bear pepper spray is an excellent product for self-defense, but as some previous comments have noted, the most important defense is education and good technique to minimize the risks of a bear encounter in the first place.
— Posted by Jim BApr 24, 2008 at 10:50 am #1429980
I thought the Bear's attraction to pepper spray, was spraid-stuff, not the spray itself. Anything spraid ends up with an odor that attracks bears. The spray itself irritates the bears, is what I understood. In other words, the pepper in gas form the bear hates, the pepper odor left behind after a spray, the bear likes. Have you heard otherwise than this?Apr 24, 2008 at 11:05 am #1429986
No you are correct that is what I heard as well.
Most of the information I have came from Park Rangers that had worked in and around the JMT Yosemite side for about 5 years or more.
There was one attack a few years back in the 1000-Island Lake side…well not a attack really. A black bear was snooping around the campsite. The hiker woke up to the noise and did not think, stuck his head out of the tent, spooked the bear and the bear slapped with face. There was also one report last year again in the 1000-Island Lake area of a bear ripping about a tent. I bet there was food in it!!!
Each person needs to do what you feel secure with, for me I did not fear any wildlife, but a certain hiker following me and acting strange…caused me to get out my human pepper spray and wear it around my neck.
In the history of the area there have not been any deaths due to a black bear. My son had one sniffing at his vestibule last year…why…ha! he brushed his teeth by his tent. Most will run when being loud and a small air horn works great, but anyone camping in the area will hate you in the morning! ;)Apr 24, 2008 at 11:10 am #1429988
Last year, I skipped the bear spray (due to the weight) and only utilized a mechanical fog horn (shown in my gear list in my profile) which is about 1 oz. It is a super loud horn — if a bear heard it, it would swear a boat was about to run him down and I'm sure it would cause the bear to look for a shore.Apr 24, 2008 at 11:18 am #1429992
I think that is what we are going to use this time, because I will have my granddaughters with us.
Plus it could become part of a ER First Aid Kit :)Apr 28, 2008 at 5:00 am #1430517
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
>>We only have blacks and browns. The only grizzlies I know of play basketball in Memphis.<<
Disclaimer, this is as I understand it:
The terms "grizzly" and "brown bear" are nearly synonymous. They are both Ursus arctos. Some people consider the grizzly to be a subspecies of brown bear, Ursus arctos horribilis. They thus differentiate the North American grizzly from the Eurasian brown bear, but I think that this is splitting hairs.
The black and brown bears that you are referring to are almost certainly both Ursus americanus, the American black bear, which can actually come in almost any color, including brown. This makes telling them apart a little more adventurous…Apr 28, 2008 at 11:45 am #1430573
"brown" versus "black" bear
The large hump on the grizzly/brown bear back. That is muscle! Looks like a good way to tell the difference.
It is important to know the difference if you are involved in an attack. The experts say fight the black bear and play dead for the grizzly.
I've only seen black bears a few times, no grizzly yet. Only once did I have one that did not flee right away. This bear looked like it left moving behind a large boulder next to the trail, but it came back around the boulder after I was much closer. It did not approach me, but watched me as I slowly backed up. After I got out of site, I turned and walked away pretty fast – almost running – as I kept looking behind me.
I ran into a group of hikers and told them about the bear. We all decided to go back making a lot of noise as we got closer. The bear was gone except for some scat (on the ground not in my pants : )May 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm #1433460
@mitchellkeilLocale: Deep in the OC
A while ago Backpacker magazine presented an article called "The Great Bear Spray shootout" I just tried to find it and could not locate it on their website even though it comes up in a search. Maybe someone else will have better luck.
The winner was a product called Bearguard Spray. I bought this product and carried it on every trip in Yosemite and the Sierras for about 2 years. The can weighed 9.5 oz and it threw a spray pattern about 15 ft in diameter and about 25 ft in distance and contained 1% OC. One is advised to replace the can every 2 years or so which I did, but not before trying it out. Man does this thing pack a wallop. It threw a cloud of intense spray, almost 325 grms about 25 feet and much more than 15 ft diameter with a lot of force over a period of 9 seconds. I would not want to be any bear in that cloud.
The original company does not make it under this name anymore but does make it under the name "Tactical OC" and it actually comes in several different versions. Here is one source I found:
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