Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no doubt that bears can pose a threat, and if you’re trying to survive in the wilderness, the bear may have the opposite plan for you. The return of this top tier predator to certain areas of North America is a real success story, but it does mean that human-bear conflicts are on the rise.
Being wild animals, most of the time a bear will go out of his way to avoid people, but at certain times of the year, they can be a problem. Much of the online advice is written by people who’ve never actually encountered a grizzly at full charge, and are full of macho posturing, so it’s wise to pick your information carefully.
North America is home to three bear species – the carnivorous and extremely dangerous polar bear, the brown bear which includes grizzlies, and the black bear. The latter is the smallest of the three and tends to be less aggressive, and unless you’re traveling inside the Arctic Circle, you’re unlikely to meet a polar bear. So that leaves the brown. These can cause the biggest problem, especially if a female – a sow, is protecting her cubs, and it’s wise to consider every brown bear dangerous.
They’re fast, too, with an adult grizzly reaching speeds of 35 mph, hitting top speed instantly. If you try to outrun one, they will chase, and win.
How to Avoid Conflict
Bears hate being surprised (don’t we all), so for once, try to make noise as you move through the wilderness, and adopt a stance that says you mean business. Having a better sense of smell than dogs, and always seemingly on the hunt for food, bears will sniff out any food you are carrying, eating on the move, or have stashed around your BOS. Some bears have even learned to associate the sound of gunshot with fresh game, and will pop in for an easy meal. It pays, then, to keep your larder a distance from your camp and to bury any refuse good and deep.
The best course of action if you do face a brown bear is to back away slowly until you’ve broken visual contact. That, and have a full, working can of bear spray.
It’s a comforting thought that 98% of people who came into contact with a bear, but had a can of bear spray, came away uninjured, and that it’s 92% effective with all three species of bear in North America.
Practice using the bear spray so that you’re ready. Know how far it shoots, how much pressure is needed, and always carry it in a holster on the front of your body. Like you’re going to have time to scrabble around in your backpack in an emergency!
We’ve found this one effective, easy to use and it comes with a holster.
Sabre are a reliable, trusted make, and their pepper spray is used by the NYPD, the US Customs department and in 40 countries across the world. The belt holster allows immediate access, and the can itself is simple to trigger with a spray distance of 30 feet.
This stuff is strong, very strong. Over 50% stronger than the nastiest pepper sprays, the mist produced creates a heavy fog of spray that deters even the most determined bear. We like the fact that every batch is rigorously tested to eliminate failures – that’s a comforting thought.
Be careful on windy days, as any blowback is unpleasant, to say the least.
In what could literally be a life and death situation, this small can could save you. It’s well worth purchasing several and make sure everyone in your group has one.