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Alaska: Spray proves its worth in bear encounters

From: Anchorage Daily News

One blast from a can of Counter-Assault bear spray was all it took to make believers out of Carl Ramm and wife Susan Alexander five years ago.

One minute a grizzly bear sow was charging through the thick willows along Peters Creek in Chugach State Park, seemingly intent on flattening the two Anchorage hikers, or worse. And then, just as quickly, the encounter was over.

Ramm pulled the trigger on a canister of Counter-Assault, watched an orange-mist of pepper spray cover the brush and envelop the bear, saw the bear’s eyes go wide and last heard her breaking brush as she beat a retreat.

Ninety-eight percent of the time, this is how things go with bear spray, biologist Tom Smith has concluded. In a paper published in “The Journal of Wildlife Management,” Smith — along with co-authors Stephen Herrero, Terry Debruyn and James Wilder — indicates bear spray might be better than a firearm for protecting yourself against the rare attack.

Bear spray is cheaper. It doesn’t require much shooting skill. And in none of the 83 cases the scientists examined was a bear-spray user seriously injured.

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  1. This is been a great news to see, where the grizzly bear was moved away by using a pepper spray, i think sprays are best options to use against bears rather than guns.

  2. tobefree

    This is great news, and is probably the method I’ll personally use. However, the ADN article strangely neglects to mention a very important factor.

    The author talks about how the wind can affect accuracy, but a headwind can also very easily blow the spray right into the sprayer’s face. And I’ve been told that a headwind is possibly the most likely condition for a bear attack, because bears can’t smell us coming, and wind can make it also harder to hear us.

    For this very reason, some choose to use a firearm instead, because they don’t want to be temporarily blinded/incapacitated by their own pepper spray during a windy bear encounter.

    It would be interesting to know how many of the attacked people were affected by their own pepper spray (and to what degree) in these 83 cases.

    Jeff Fenske

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