Bear Spray is Effective

30-second public service announcement for bear spray by Craig Boddington.

If you’d like to broadcast the PSA on television, please contact the IGBC.

Bear Spray FAQs

For Bear Spray to be Effective, You Must be Prepared


  • Every person in your party should carry his or her own canister. Surprise encounters are just that, and the person with the spray may or may not be the first on the scene.
  • Bear spray is a powerful weapon; treat it like a firearm. Handle it carefully and point it away from humans.
  • Accidental discharge of bear spray can ruin gear and vehicles. Store carefully, away from heat (120°F) and cold (-70°F). Never leave a canister of bear spray in a hot vehicle!
  • When flying, keep in mind that airline regulations do not allow transportation of bear spray—even in checked baggage—in the amounts that canisters typically contain. Plan to purchase bear spray at your destination. Alternatively, some online retailers may be able to ship to your destination.
  • If you have a partly-used canister of bear spray, or if the canister is beyond its expiration date, use it for training or dispose of it, and purchase a fresh can. Depending on local landfill regulations, a completely emptied bear spray canister may be discarded as trash, or it may need to be treated as hazardous waste. Check with your local waste authority. Some parks and wildlife management agencies have canister recycling programs.


When a Bear Charges: How to Use Bear Spray



Though you should have the spray in your hand when you first see a bear, be ready to use it only if the bear approaches closer than 50 ft. (15 m). Remember the canister may contain as little as six seconds’ worth of spray, and you may need to spray the bear twice or more. Follow these guidelines:

  • Stand your ground. Running away may trigger the bear’s instinct to chase.
  • Remove the safety cap or clip. Hold the can up and ready. Many bears will move away at this point, and you will not have to use the spray.
  • At 20-30 ft (6-10 m), spray for 2-3 seconds. Use both hands. Aim directly in front of the bear’s head and a little downward. A cloud of ingredients will billow up from the ground, creating a wall of spray. When the bear reaches the cloud, it will feel it.
  • If the bear continues to approach you, spray it again.
  • Stay out of the spray! If possible, try to shoot downwind.
  • Monitor the bear’s activities, and do not turn your back on the bear for any reason.
  • When the bear retreats, continue to watch it and move away slowly.

Carrying pepper spray and knowing how to use it properly is the best deterrent against a bear attack, and can lessen the duration or seriousness of an attack that occurs. Professional wildlife biologists who work in the field depend on bear spray and trust it as an effective tool to prevent injury to both people and bears.

View the 1-minute bear spray demonstration by Craig Boddington

IGBC Bear Spray Report

In June of 2008 the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee reviewed their position of bear spray and the contents of their position paper in response to questions from the public.

To do this review the IGBC surveyed bear management specialist from state, federal, provincial, and Parks Canada agencies for comments and suggestions on suggested bear spray guidelines. Their response was based upon their experiences with both black bears and grizzly bears, review of incidents where people were charged including when contact was made. The pattern clearly showed that bear behavior can vary greatly in charging and attacking situations. There is no one set recommendation that can cover any one given charge or attack. The attached document includes the position paper, the original review of bear spray and its use in defending against charging and attacking bears. There is a section of letters of wildlife and land management agency bear management specialists.

IGBC Bear Spray Recommendations

The IGBC does not endorse, promote or guarantee any commercial product.

The following are only recommendations. The IGBC does recommend the use of bear spray as an effective tool when used in conjunction with proper bear avoidance safety techniques. Bear spray is not a substitute for following proper bear avoidance safety techniques. (Never approach, attempt to follow, interact with, or feed a bear)

No deterrent is 100% effective, but bear spray has demonstrated success in fending off charging and attacking bears and preventing, or reducing injury to the person and animal involved. The proper use of bear spray may reduce human injuries caused by bears, the number of grizzly bears killed in self-defense, and help promote the recovery and survival of the grizzly bear.

Selecting and buying a bear spray:

More information for selecting and using bear spray