Bear Spray Rules in National Parks: A Complete Outdoor Enthusiasts Guide to Safety

Bear Spray Rules in National Parks: A Complete Outdoor Enthusiasts Guide to Safety

04 30 2024

National parks offer breathtaking landscapes, an escape from reality, and unique wildlife sights. The allure of the national parks is irresistible for some, but along with the immense beauty, these parks also present the potential for danger, particularly when it comes to encounters with large animals like bears and mountain lions. Being prepared is not just a recommendation—it's a necessity.

Photo: Priscilla Du Preez | Unsplash

Among other essential tools for any outdoor adventurer, bear spray stands out as a crucial defense against threatening wildlife. Let's explore everything you should know about bear spray and national parks to ensure you stay safe during your next expedition.

What Is Bear and Mountain Lion Spray?

Animal deterrents like  Frontiersman MAX Bear & Mountain Lion Spray are made with oleoresin capsicum (OC), an oil resin derived from peppers. When inhaled, it can cause an animal to turn away and seek relief from the irritation without causing permanent harm.

Frontiersman MAX Bear & Mountain Lion Spray is the only deterrent registered with the EPA for use on bears, mountain lions, and big cats. Boasting a 40-foot spray range ensures you have the space to react and protect yourself without engaging the animal closely. Its 2.0% major-capsaicinoid formula is the strongest allowed by law, making it a must-have for outdoor adventures.

Bear Spray in National Parks

The presence of bears and mountain lions is often a matter of when, not if, especially in their natural habitat. When you encounter a bear or big cat in a national park, bear deterrent spray becomes your best line of defense when combined with other bear safety tips—making noise, hiking in groups, and not running away from a bear.

The use of bear spray is endorsed widely by wildlife professionals and park rangers. Yet, in 2023, only 28 percent of visitors to Yellowstone carried bear spray, even though it’s more than 90 percent effective in stopping an aggressive bear.

Bear spray is legal to carry in most states and national parks, but like pepper spray state laws, the specific regulations vary from park to park. In Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, park officials recommend carrying bear spray. However, in Yosemite and Sequoia & Kings Canyon,visitors aren't just prohibited from using bear spray but from even possessing it within park boundaries. Park-goers in these areas are encouraged to carry alternative bear deterrents, such as noise-making devices like bear bells and bear horns.

Safety Tips for Your Next Adventure

Photo: Justin Buisson | Unsplash

While bear spray is your best defense when faced with an aggressive or charging animal, there are precautions you can take to prepare for a visit to a national park and prevent yourself from ever needing to deploy your bear deterrent.

  • Educate yourself on the signs of bear activity, such as tracks, scat, or tree stands.
  • Travel in groups of three or more so wild animals can see, hear, or smell you coming.
  • Make loud noises while hiking, particularly around blind corners and dense foliage, to alert bears and allow them to avoid you.
  • Keep bear spray readily accessible, not just in your backpack but in a holster on your person.
  • Know how to use your bear spray. Practice using bear spray before you go hiking, so you know what to do when the time comes.
  • Understand the difference between black bears and grizzly bears and how to react in their presence.