If you like to hike, camp, hunt or otherwise enjoy the relaxation and beauty of the great outdoors, you may wonder what to do if you encounter an imminent threat in the form of a bear. You have probably heard about bear spray as a defense, but does bear spray actually work? Read on for answers to this and five other common questions about bear spray.
1. Does Bear Spray Actually Work?
The short answer is a resounding “yes.” Bear spray really can protect you from bears. In fact, numerous studies have shown bear spray to be among the most effective ways to stop an aggressive bear. According to a 2008 study by Tom S. Smith, bear spray has been shown to stop bears more than 90 percent of the time.
Many folks assume firearms are the best way to repel an aggressive bear. But studies show that guns have a success rate of only about 50 percent with bears. Besides having a lower stopping rate than bear spray, firearms are more dangerous for humans to use.
Bear spray is nonlethal, temporarily incapacitating an attacking bear so the user can get away to safety. It has no lasting effects, so it’s safer for you, the environment, and the bear.
It’s wise to look for sprays with maximum range, up to 35 feet. That lets you deploy it use it as far away as possible from an aggressive bruin, giving you more time and space to get away.
2. Will Bear Spray Work on Cougars?
As more outdoors enthusiasts hit the trails on foot, mountain bike and by other means, interactions between cougars and humans have increased. Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, range mainly in the western part of the U.S. The Florida panther, a puma subspecies, is the only member of the family in the East. Small numbers of these panthers live in South Florida, mainly in the Everglades.
Cougars are extremely strong, stealthy and dangerous animals. They can stalk humans as prey. Cougar attacks are rare in the U.S., ranging from about 12 to 20 per year. Still, it’s smart to be prepared if your recreation takes you into cougar country.
A few simple steps can help protect you. Most cougar attacks occur on solo hikers or bikers, so travel in a group if you can.
If you do encounter a big cat on your own, make yourself look as large as possible. Create some noise to scare the animal off. You want to let the cat know you’re not an easy meal.
Bear spray, as outlined by the EPA, is only approved for use on bears. However, other hiking safety products like bells and safety horns can deter animals before you near them on the trail.
3. Will Pepper Spray Stop a Bear?
Depending on where you live, you could encounter a variety of bear species. Fortunately, the most common North American species, black bears, pose the least danger according to bearlife.org. These bears range across most of the U.S. and Canada. Although they mainly stick to wild, undeveloped places, they can sometimes wander into suburbs and other populated areas. Fortunately, they tend to be less aggressive than most bear species. They are more likely to tear apart a camp for food than to injure you. Still, black bears occasionally, and unfortunately, have attacked and killed humans.
In more remote regions, grizzly bears are a possibility. These are fierce, strong and dangerous animals you do not want to tangle with. In really cold climates, polar bears are becoming a more common sight in settled areas as they seek food.
Fortunately, pepper spray will stop most bear attacks. Specially formulated bear spray approved by the U.S. EPA will usually halt any kind of bear in its tracks, giving you time to escape. You can also find Canadian bear spray manufactured to comply with regulations in Canada.
4. How Long Do the Effects of Bear Spray Last?
Bear spray is also sometimes referred to as bear mace. To make sure you stop an aggressive bear, you should use bear spray specifically designed for these animals. Bear spray provides a humane way to temporarily disable an aggressive bear. Unlike a gun, it won’t maim or kill the animal.
Bear spray fires a derivative of red pepper at the bear. It affects the animal’s eyes, nose and lungs, impairing its ability to see or breathe. The time these effects will last varies depending on many factors, but won’t cause any long-term harm to a bear. Of course, it’s wise to move away from the bear before it recovers.
5. Can Bear Spray Kill a Human?
Bear spray isn’t designed to kill bears or humans. It offers a nonlethal way to effectively stop aggressive bears.
Although it may be counterintuitive, some bear sprays may have lower percentages of capsaicinoids than pepper sprays and gels manufactured to ward off human attackers. In fact, in Canada, it’s legal to carry bear spray to defend yourself in case of a bear attack but illegal to carry pepper spray to intend to us against a human.
However, FRONTIERSMAN Bear Spray offers 2.0% major capsaicinoids, the maximum amount approved by the EPA.
6. Is Bear Spray Worse than Pepper Spray?
Because bears are stronger than humans, FRONTIERSMAN bear spray is stronger than the pepper sprays and gels used against attacking humans.
Like pepper gels and sprays made to repel human assailants, bear sprays use oleoresin capsicum, a fiery substance derived from peppers, to temporarily disable attackers. Bear sprays tend to have a lower percentage of pain-producing major capsaicinoids, or MC, than pepper sprays designed for use against human attackers. In the U.S., the EPA allows 1 to 2 percent capsaicinoids. FRONTIERSMAN Bear Spray offers 2.0% majors capsaicinoids in bear sprays as opposed to 1.33% majors capsaicinoids in civilian pepper sprays. Products developed for use in Canada usually have a level of 1 percent.
The takeaway? Carry bear spray in bear country. For self-defense against human attackers in the U.S., carry pepper spray or pepper gel, which is legal in all 50 states.