Grizzly bears - yellowstone - Steve Ard/IGBST

Bear spray is a powerful deterrent made of capsaicin (the “hot” in hot peppers), which, when used correctly, can deter bear attacks. Bear spray inflames the bear’s eyes and upper respiratory system, causing intense burning and giving you and your loved ones time to escape. Bear spray emerges from the canister at over 70 mph, so it is likely be effective even under windy conditions.

Bear spray is a deterrent, not a repellent; use it only during an encounter with an aggressive bear. Pre-sprayed objects may actually attract bears and other wildlife.

Yes! In a study of bear spray incidents in Alaska, spray effectively deterred undesirable behavior more than 90% of the time. In 72 incidents involving 175 people, only three people were harmed, none seriously.

You must carry the spray on your person, know how to use it, and be ready on a moment’s notice.

Bear spray is available in many outdoor, hunting and sporting goods stores. You can also order it online. Canisters labeled “pepper spray,” may not have the correct concentration of ingredients. Instead, look for canisters marked “Bear Spray” or “Bear Deterrent,” with a minimum of 7.9 ounces (225 gr) of product, an EPA registration, a concentration of 1-2% capsaicin and capsaicinoids, a 25-foot (8 m) or more range, and a spray capacity of at least 6 seconds. Check the expiration date to be sure the ingredients have a reasonable shelf life.

No. Any species of bear can become pushy or assertive, especially when cubs are involved or if the bear has become accustomed to human food or garbage. Bear spray may also successfully deter other wildlife such as moose and mountain lions during encounters.

Treat bear spray exactly as you would a loaded handgun. Bear spray in your face causes involuntary eye closure and pain for up to 45 minutes. At very close range, the pressure can cause permanent eye damage.

When a bear attacks, bear spray offers several advantages over a firearm:

  • Bear spray requires less accuracy than bullets fired at a moving target, especially when you’re under stress.
  • Accidental discharges or badly aimed firearms can kill people, while bear spray has never caused a fatality. Bear spray leaves the bear alive, and less likely to approach humans in the future.
  • Firing a warning shot from a gun may not scare a bear away, but a sprayed bear is likely to leave.

Bottom line: hunters who carry bear spray are prepared for anything.

There are several differences between bear spray and pepper spray:

  • You can expect bear spray to shoot farther than regular pepper spray and cover a wider area. Most bear sprays shoot 20 to 30 feet in range.
  • Bear spray is more highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure it is effective and humane.
  • The EPA measures the amount of capsaicin and related capsaicinoids of bear spray and pepper spray. The capsaicinoid percentage in bear deterrent is typically 2% while in pepper spray it’s only 1.33%