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Bear spray is toted by just 13% of Yellowstone dayhikers, despite the park's best efforts at communicating bear safety best practices. In response to continued injuries and fatalities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Board of Review recently released recommendations for exploring safely alongside the bear population.
The report begins by noting "the unfortunate death of Mr. Lance Crosby" which "highlights the importance of following recommended safety procedures when hiking in grizzly bear habitat. Increasing numbers and distribution of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem increase the possibility of bear-human encounters." The document goes on to remind readers that "there is no guarantee of safety when hiking in bear country, even when all recommended safety procedures are followed."
Following this disclaimer, the BOR arrives at some striking numbers. "...of the 6 human fatalities caused by grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem since 2010, 5 involved hikers. Of the 5 hiker fatalities, 4 involved solitary hikers none of whom carried bear spray. The other hiker fatality involved two hikers who were not carrying bear spray and who ran from a bear they encountered on the trail. The bear then chased the running hikers, killing one of them."
So, the most important move is to increase the amount of hikers that take proper bear safety precautions. What you need to know for staying safe in bear country:
The bottom line: If we want to prevent as many injuries and fatalities as possible, bear spray is not just a suggestion. It's absolutely necessary in bear country.