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Bear Repellents

Arm Yourself with Bear Repellent for Self Defense

Make sure you buy bear pepper spray, not personal defense or law enforcement spray. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has special regulations for it. The EPA requires that the label on all bear pepper spray show:

  • Either “bear deterrent” or “to deter bears from attacking humans”
  • The ingredients such as “Capsaisan and related Capsaisinoids” or “derived from Oleoresin of Capsicum”
  • A CRC content of 1 to 2%. (The EPA regulations do not refer to OC content.)
  • An EPA Registration Number
  • The state where it was manufactured
  • A net weight of at least 225 grams or 7.9 ounces

Read the label thoroughly for the following: detailed precautions, directions for use, and storage and disposal instructions listed on the canister.

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keep bears awayHow much should I buy?

You may have more than one encounter with a bear, you may have more than one bear charging you simultaneously. For this reason, you will need sufficient spray for the hike. Small personal-size canisters may be effective against humans, but are not effective against bears and they often emit a stream of liquid difficult to aim.It is recommended that each person should have their own canister both for their own protection and to back up others. After an encounter with a bear(s) no one has ever said, “We bought too many bear sprays.” Be prepared.

How do I safely carry bear spray?

A good bear pepper spray will have a safety clip on the trigger. This prevents accidental discharge. Never carry bear pepper spray in your pack. The time it takes to remove it can make the difference between being charged by a bear and being mauled by one. You don't want the latter. Two basic holsters allow for quick and easy access to the spray; the hip holster, and the chest strap holster.

Use spray only to deter bear attacks

Under no circumstances should you use the spray as an insecticide. That is not only wrong it is just down right stupid. Do not spray a tent or equipment. Never spray a person or clothing. The spray will not repel a bear from later curiosity or aggression. The spray only works when a bear has broken safe distance from you, usually 35-50 feet.

For maximum effectiveness

Bear pepper spray is only effective when the aerosol mist is directly inhaled by the bear. This means you must spray into the bear’s face. Hitting the bear’s body will do absolutely nothing other than wasting precious spray.

For human health and safety

In terms of human health and safety, there are a few things to remember. Asthmatics should avoid inhaling the spray. Contact lenses may be permanently damaged by exposure. If skin or eyes come in contact with the spray, flush with plenty of water. If you inhale the spray, move to an area of fresh air. The effects of the spray will wear off after about an hour.

For transporting and storing

Bear pepper spray should be transported in the trunk or back of the vehicle in a sealed bag or canister. Avoid handling in the car. Avoid storing in direct sunlight or in temperatures above 120 degrees F. Avoid risk of puncturing the canister.

Effect of weather conditions

Certain weather and habitat conditions may affect the use of bear pepper spray. With wind there are two concerns: speed and direction. A strong side wind will blow the mist of spray to the side of your target. A strong head wind will blow the spray back at you. Even a mild head wind may eventually expose you to spray if you do not leave the area shortly after discharging. Rain may dilute some of the spray on wet bear fur. A heavy rain may wash out some of the mist from the air.  Extreme heat or cold may reduce the effectiveness of the spray.

Effect on bears

Bear pepper spray is non-lethal to bears and causes them to experience the following: eye irritation, choking, coughing, nausea, reduced breathing, and inflammation of the skin, all distracting a bear from its charge and its want to find water and remove from the current situation.

Practice spraying

If you are new to bear pepper spray, practice spraying a couple of times. Also it is recommended to test fire each new canister to make sure it works properly. Always test outside, with the wind at your back. First, flip off the safety clip. Make sure the nozzle is aimed away from you. Press the trigger with a short test burst.

When you encounter a bear

If you surprise a bear at close range, especially a grizzly bear, and especially a bear with cubs, know that they will usually leave, but be prepared to spray. There are many times when using bear pepper spray is not appropriate. If a bear is in the distance, do not approach or attempt to spray them. If a bear is nearby but not being aggressive or coming toward you, be prepared to spray, but try to leave the area first.

If you spot or suspect a bear to be in the area, do not spray, but be prepared by: removing the can from the holster and removing the safety clip. When spraying a charging bear, especially shooting from the holster, you may not have time to aim. Try to spray early enough so the bear, if charging, runs into the widest bear pepper spray cloud.

Remember, anything standing between you and a bear, such as thick vegetation, may represent a partial barrier to the spray. Be extra alert in limited sight areas.
If a bear begins to charge, spray when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet of you. Remember a bear can run up to 35 miles per hour. This is faster than you can even imagine. It is highly advised, you spray in a short back and forth motion in front of you as you take steps backward to have a layer of spray for the bear to hit first, which may slow it down upon first contact, which will then allow you to go for a more direct hit to the bear’s face.

When spraying the bear, aim for the face but slightly downward for the spray will billow upwards a bit. Give a second shot if the first shot does not immediately stop the bear’s charge. If the bear continues to charge, empty the can. Leave the area immediately after shooting the spray so you are not personally affected.

Bear pepper spray is recommended by professionals for prevention and defense against bear attacks. The cone of the spray allows for less precise aim. A bullet that only wounds a bear, produces a dangerous bear. Just as important, bear pepper spray is non-lethal. It may save you and the bear.

When you are in bear country the best defense is to follow basic safety techniques. Bear pepper spray is no substitute for planning. It will not prevent encounters. Bear pepper spray is meant as a last course of action. It is no replacement for common sense. Every bear is different and each encounter is also unique. Visit your local wildlife agency to learn more about bears before entering bear country.