Bears Bear Watching
by Don A. Levine
Evidently June is bear month. Here are just a few of the June 2012 headlines:
- Payson, Arizona – two attacks in one week
- British Colombia, Canada – man attacked while in his hot tub at home
- Cape Cod, Massachusetts – rare sighting of animal roving Cape Cod
- Boulder , Colorado – animal roaming campus of University of Colorado
- Greenwich, New Jersey – bear wandering neighborhood
- Grafton, New Hampshire – woman attached at her back door
- Manchester, New Hampshire – found wandering streets of Manchester
We can all sympathize with these poor beasts. Humans have encroached on their territory in almost every state. And with the aid of today’s technologies human go deeper and deeper into the wild. The best way to avoid an encounter is to avoid them. But that is becoming increasingly more difficult to do when the bears are roaming the streets and visiting our backdoors.
Whether in your backyard or in the woods, most bear encounters result from the fact the bear is either protecting its territory, its young or looking for food. If a bear attacks it has either been provoked or is being predatory. Both situations are very dangerous.
Information abounds from experts in the field on bear behavior and ways to protect yourself if you are caught in the unenviable position of coming face to face with a bear. Most of us, unless we are outdoors enthusiasts, naturalists, hunters or adventurers, would not expect to encounter a bear in our daily lives but the headlines prove that assumption wrong. It could happen anywhere. Understanding bear behavior could save your life.
You could also save your life by being proactive and preparing for a bear encounter. Other than avoidance, the two most recommended solutions are guns or bear repellant. Both have their pros and cons. Let’s state the obvious. Guns are illegal in many places and unless you are a very good shot and have a high powered weapon, a shot from a gun does not usually drop a bear. A wounded bear can continue to run and attack. On the other hand, a direct hit from bear repellant usually stops the bear in his tracks. Bear repellant is easier to aim and shoot and, although very effective, is non-lethal. Pepper spray or bear mace will not cause permanent damage to the bear.
Bear sprays contain natural and chemical components which cause immediate inflammation of tissues on contact with eyes, nose and bare skin. You should aim for a bear’s face or use a back and forth motion to lay down a field of spray directly in the bear’s on-coming path to give maximum exposure to the bear’s face. The resulting inflammation and irritation of the eyes, nose and lungs is immediate and causes the bear to focus on his face instead of on your face. The normal bear reaction is stop and/or retreat giving you time to get to safety.
Not every situation is perfect for bear repellants. If the wind is blowing in your face, don’t spray. If the temperatures are well below freezing, your spray may not work properly. And remember, you must be carrying your spray in a readily available place; your hand or on your belt comes to mind. Don’t bury it in your pack. In these situations fall back on your research and choose the most compatible non-intervention strategy for your situation. If nothing comes to mind, fall to the ground, curl up in a ball to protect you head and neck, play dead, and remain still.
When it is a choice between becoming bear lunch or being a proactive self-defender, choose to protect yourself. Don’t be lunch!
There are several makes and models of bear repellents but two of the most popular are Mace Bear Spray and Guard Alaska®.
Mace Bear Spray is a safe, humane pepper Mace bear spray. The powerful magnum fogger delivers an extreme blast that may reach up to 30 feet.
Guard Alaska® Bear spray is an ultra-hot pepper spray proven so effective at repelling bears, it is the only one registered with the EPA as a repellent for all species of bear!
For more information on bear safety and bear sprays:
U. S. Fish and Wildlife “Bear Spray vs. Bullets”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife “Bear Safety on the Web”
Story written by and submitted by Don A. Levine.