Bear Awareness and Safety hit home with our #Shootinjh team when a friend was killed by a grizzly in 2018. We started doing more research about bear encounters and Senior Lead Coach Scott Austin developed a course to help prevent human and bear injury and death in the future. Coach Tony Molina wrote a book on the topic, and also teaches live private classes.
Living in Bear Country
Nine times out of 10, bears that repeatedly get into attractants around our homes are eventually euthanized. Please help save bears from this needless action by learning some tips to help keep your residence bear friendly.
- Do not put out salt licks, grain, or deer blocks to attract wild animals as these create areas of concentrated animal scent that will then draw in bears and mountain lions.
- Use native plant landscaping whenever possible. Be aware that a watered lawn with lush grass, clover, and dandelions is an attractive feeding site for bears.
- Close all windows when not at home or when cooking.
- Talk to your children about bears and how to avoid them.
- Have a plan in case a bear comes inside your home and keep bear pepper spray handy. Give a bear that is in your home an escape route by propping all doors open with something heavy that will act as a doorstop.
- Never approach a bear in your yard, always give bears an escape route and never crowd or harass a bear.
With a little knowledge you can keep a bear encounter from becoming a conflict. Take time to rehearse various scenarios in your mind in advance. Sports trainers say, “If the mind has never been there before, the body does not know how to respond.”
The following is a list of Bear Awareness and Safety recommended responses to minimize the likelihood of attack or chances of human injury:
- Make certain you have bear pepper spray at the ready and know how to use it.
- Always maintain a safe distance from bears.
- Stay calm.
- Immediately pick up small children and stay in a group.
- Behave in a non-threatening manner.
- Speak softly.
- Do NOT make eye contact.
- Throw a backpack or other object (like a hat or gloves) on the ground as you move away to distract the animal’s attention.
- Slowly back away, if possible. Keep a distance of at least 100 yards.
- Do not run from a bear. Running may trigger a natural predator-prey attack response and a grizzly can easily outrun the world’s fastest human.
- Don’t climb a tree unless you are sure you can get at least 10′ from the ground before the bear reaches you. Many experts recommend against climbing trees in most situations.
- Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a grizzly bear that is near or feeding on a carcass.
- If a grizzly bear charges your first option is to remain standing and direct your pepper spray at the charging bear. The bear may “bluff charge” or run past you. As a last resort, either curl up in a ball or lie face down (flat). Leave your pack on to provide protection, cover your neck and head with your arms and hands. Do not attempt to look at the bear until you are sure it’s gone.
- If a black or grizzly bear attacks, and if you have a firearm and know how to use it safely and effectively, Montana law allows you to kill a bear to defend yourself, another person or a domestic dog. If you do kill a bear in self defense you must report it to FWP within 72 hours.
- If you are armed, using a weapon on a grizzly bear does not guarantee your safety. Wounding a grizzly bear will put you and others in danger.
- If a grizzly bear attacks during the day, most experts recommend either curling up in a ball or laying face down (flat). Use your hands and arms to protect the back of your neck and face, and keep your backpack on for added protection. Do not move or make noise until you are sure the bear has left the area.
- If a black or grizzly bear attacks at night while you’re in a tent, fight back aggressively with whatever you have available to use as a defensive weapon or deterrent. The bear may be seeking food rather than trying to neutralize a threat, so fight back to show the bear you are dangerous.
Pepper Spray – Bear Awareness and Safety Training
Which bear spray to use
In the rare case of a conflict, bear spray, a high-pressure extract of about 2 percent capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, and other related capsaicinoids, can get the job done. Recent incidents show bear spray to be more effective than a bullet in diverting or stopping a charging bear, according to the Center For Wildlife Information in Missoula.
One way to begin is to check out the different brands available on the Internet or at your local sporting goods store. Many manufacturers offer helpful product comparisons and detailed user instructions on their Internet web sites. Be especially careful to confirm that you are looking at products registered with the EPA and that are intended specifically for use on bears.
Features to assess when selecting a manufacturer include:
- the percent of active ingredients: 1.3-2 percent is recommended;
- spray time: bear experts say 6 to 9 seconds;
- weight of the canister: at least 7.9 ounces;
- and spray range: bear experts recommend a range of 25 feet in order to give the bear time to experience the effects of the spray.
Practicing with bear spray
Manufacturers generally recommend practicing the steps necessary to use bear spray including arming the container, spraying, and then restoring the safety clip to disarm the container. First-time users will also want to take a test spray or two. Because the spray is so forceful, it may require some practice to control it, especially if there is any wind. The down side is that every test spray reduces the canister’s effective spray time. It is important to track the time remaining on a canister carefully.
Carrying bear spray
- Each person should carry a can of bear spray when working or recreating in bear habitat.
- Bear pepper spray should be carried in a quick, accessible fashion, such as in a hip or chest holster.
- Keep bear spray readily available in your cooking area.
- Keep bear spray readily available next to your flashlight in your tent.
- Some experts recommend carrying more than one can of bear spray to ensure you always have the additional spray time you might need if it takes more than one burst to stop a bear, or if you encounter more than one bear.
Bear Awareness and Safety – When to use bear spray
- Bear pepper spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.
- Bear pepper spray is only effective when used as an airborne deterrent sprayed as a cloud at an aggressive animal. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment, or surrounding area as a repellent.
- Do not apply the bear spray to camping gear, tents and backpacks. It does NOT repel bears when sprayed on such items.
Using bear spray
- Remove safety clip.
- Aim slightly down and toward the approaching bear. If necessary, adjust for cross wind.
- Spray a brief shot when the bear is about 25 feet away.
- Spray again if the bear continues to approach.
- Once the bear has retreated or is busy cleaning itself, leave the area as quickly as possible but don’t run. Go to an immediate area of safety, such as a car or building.
- Do not chase or pursue the bear.
The most intense effects of bear spray may last 30-45 minutes. It is potent enough to cause extreme discomfort and damage to the eyes if it is accidentally released at close range. Flushing the affected skin with water can help but expect to be uncomfortable for a while.
Bear pepper spray transportation and storage
Do not plan to transport bear spray on commercial airlines, but you can identify suppliers on the Internet in the area where you plan to recreate. Also be aware that extreme heat or cold may affect the performance of the product. Canisters have been known to explode if left in a vehicle in summer. Each canister also has an expiration date.