Your thoughts on bear spray

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by speedracertdi, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. speedracertdi

    speedracertdi Been here awhile

    Jun 11, 2009
    Hollywood, FL
    I'll be heading up to AK in two weeks. I was there 6 years ago and slept mainly in hotels and a few nights camping in campgrounds. This time I'm planning to do mostly primitive and stealth camping. I already know about food and toiletry storage in the wild. I'm concerned with the random curious bear wandering into my campsite. I'm not allowed to carry a gun so I'm thinking about bear spray and maybe a perimeter trip wire connected to a bell surrounding my tent and bike. What are the thoughts of the locals up in AK and Yukon areas?
  2. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

    Jul 23, 2010
    Central Minn.
    Opinion, and from what I have read,

    Pepper spray, mace, bear sprays, etc., do not work 100% of the time on bears, dogs, big cats, people, wolves, et al (and others)

    Repeat, not effective all of the time.

    Some of the time would be better than having nothing, right?

    I think the other thing that might help would be one of those compressed air horns like people carry on boats- I know on walks I used to freak out large ass dogs that were running up on me... it surprises them and "stops them". That's your cue to get the eff out of there!

    A six shot repeating FLARE GUN (H & K makes one.. ) would be option next. Light the beast ON FIRE.

    Not sure your local laws.... but six colored flares again'st a bears behind might re-educate him, or start the forest affire... :puke1

    PREVENTION probably the best thing. Learn to watch for the signs. Bear poo, tracks, and avoid leaving crap sitting around. Dont make it easy for them. I think the rigged early warning system better than nothing, fish line, cans with stones in em, what ever you can do- might make for a better night's sleep.

    Or, camp near some real slobs.... hoping the man-eating critters go for them 'stead of you. Get the people in the next campsite all liquored up the night before... it will slow them down for the bears... and marinade them just a bit too...

    I am sick. SO sick...
  3. GRIZ


    Dec 24, 2004
  4. Cubdriver

    Cubdriver Stampede Swimmer

    Aug 3, 2007
    Palmer, Alaska
    Large can of worms you have opened here. Bear spray IMHO is worthless. Look at at the story just this week of the lady who emptied a can on a bear at close range and it did nothing. NADA. Many stories like this have circulated over the years. IF you want protection a gun is the only reliable choice IN THE RIGHT HANDS. Not everyone will agree. Most people have no bear problems out there. Those that do need protection. If you have none, Darwin may have his way. Think of the biggest dog you were ever scared by, and multiply by ten.
  5. AK Bob

    AK Bob AKAM

    Dec 27, 2010
    Fairbanks, AK
    Your from FL, our bears prefer German tourists 10 to 1.

    Other than that, keep a clean camp, and no food in and around where your sleeping. Be aware of whats going on around you, read the campground signs, and don't try for close up pictures. Don't feed them, do let them know where your at, and give em LOTS of space.

    Just to mess with you, comming down from Haines Jct. to Laird Hot Springs, I counted 20 Black Bears, and 3 Griz, 50 Bison in the herd with the calves, and 8 Big Heard Bulls. That was on 7/6.

    Hitting a moose will wreck your trip, getting close to a moose is a bad thing to do, and a quick way to get stomped!

    Sorta like Sharks or Gators in FL. Do they keep you out of all the water? Nice thing about AK, no snakes in the wild.
  6. speedracertdi

    speedracertdi Been here awhile

    Jun 11, 2009
    Hollywood, FL
    Understand, I don't have to outrun the bear, just outrun my buddy! :rofl

    Since you all really don't have snakes there, the can of rocks to emulate the sound of a rattlesnake might not work. I will be getting one of those little airhorns though.

    I'm considering the flares or bear bangers, I just don't want to be that tourist guy on a bike that burned down Alaska.:eek1

    AK Bob,

    Last time I was there the biggest thing I saw was one moose crossing the road, no bears at all. I wouldn't mind see some at a distance this time around. Gators don't keep us out of the water, actually some of us jump in to grab them, they're tasty eating. :lol3

    Wildlife here usually just go the other direction when people come up. I'm sure it's the same everywhere unless they're protecting offspring or food.

    Seems like noise makers deter them the best and the bear spray would be last resort and hope.
  7. KHud

    KHud Survivor

    Jun 24, 2008
    Big Sky Country

    North Pole woman uses insect repellent to fend off Granite Tors grizzly

    by Tim Mowry
    Jul 15, 2012 | 28551 views | 44 | 65 | |

    Alyson Jones-Robinson, of North Pole, holds a bottle of Natrapel, a natural insect repellent that she used to help fend off a young grizzly she and her two nieces, 13 and 9, encountered on the Granite Tors Trail on Thursday.
    FAIRBANKS — Holding her walking stick in one hand and a bottle of natural insect repellent in the other, Alyson Jones-Robinson wished she had a gun.

    There was a grizzly bear standing only a few feet in front of her, snapping its teeth and growling at her and her two nieces, 13 and 9, who were huddled behind her, as was her husky, Rowyn.

    “It was a very surreal experience,” 43-year-old Jones-Robinson said on Friday, a day after the ordeal. “All I could think about was this bear is

    so close to me I can see its teeth. I could have kissed it. I wished I had a gun.”

    The bear, which confronted Jones-Robinson and the two girls as they were hiking the 15-mile Granite Tors Trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area about 40 miles east of Fairbanks on Thursday, wasn’t a large one — probably a 2- or 3-year-old that Jones-Robinson estimated weighed between 100 and 200 pounds — but it was big enough and acting aggressively enough that she knew it was trouble.

    “I’m 5-foot-5, and it came up to my chest,” she said, describing the size of the bear.

    It already had bluff charged the group several times after they encountered it on the trail about five miles from the trailhead at 39.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road. It definitely wasn’t afraid of them, Jones-Robinson said.

    “It was terrifying,” she said. “On a scale of one to 10, it was above a 10. My adrenaline was going so fast all I could think of was getting the kids and dog to safety.

    “I told the girls if the bear attacked me to take the dog and don’t look back, to get off the mountain and go until they found somebody,” Jones-Robinson said.

    One bear or two?

    After camping out on the trail Wednesday, Jones-Robinson and her nieces, who are visiting from Washington state, were hiking to the trailhead early Thursday afternoon when the bear appeared in front of them. Jones-Robinson told the girls to run back up the trail to get away while she confronted the bear.

    “It was kind of trotting around me, and then it would charge and growl,” said Jones-Robinson, an English professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “It charged, and I used my bear spray when it was about four feet away and then I fell with my pack on and dropped the bear spray.”

    The bear retreated for a moment but then came back and began circling Jones-Robinson, who took her pack off and threw a package of macaroni and cheese at the bear hoping to distract it.

    That’s when she heard the girls yelling back on the trail.

    “As it circled around me, I heard the girls yell, ‘There’s another one. There’s another bear up here,’” Jones-Robinson said.

    She told the girls to drop their packs where they were and come back to her. The first bear, meanwhile, still was circling Jones-Robinson. She fumbled into the dog’s pack for the bottle of Natrapel, a natural mosquito repellent she uses because she’s allergic to traditional bug dope.

    When the bear tried to bite her dog, Jones-Robinson smacked it in the head with her walking stick. The girls had returned by now and were cowering behind their aunt, as was the dog.

    “It charged again, and I hit it over the head and held out my bug spray like this,” Jones-Robinson said, brandishing the bottle of Natrapel in front of her. “I hit it like three or four times.”

    The dog, meanwhile, tried to attack the bear each time it charged, adding to the chaos.

    “I had to hold her back the whole time,” Jones-Robinson said.

    Not over yet

    After what seemed like an eternity but really was only a matter of a minute or two, the bear finally retreated and the frightened hikers continued toward the trailhead with Jones-Robinson carrying her broken walking stick and bottle of insect repellent.

    But the ordeal wasn’t over yet. The bear followed the hikers for about a mile, bluff charging them several more times before it finally wandered off.

    “It was like a shark in the water,” she said. “It would circle around and circle around and then rush us and snap its teeth and growl.

    “Every time it rushed, it would rush at my nieces,” she said. “I was basically walking backward and forward swinging my walking stick trying to anticipate charges.”

    The two girls, who Jones-Robinson declined to name, “were troupers,” she said.

    “They did everything they were trained to do,” Jones-Robinson said, noting that the girls did bear poses to make themselves look bigger. “My youngest niece was really scared. Even though she was crying and upset the whole time she didn’t do any high-pitched squeals.

    “At one point, my oldest niece took off in the woods to lead the bear away from my youngest niece,” she said.

    Jones-Robinson only sprayed it with mosquito repellent one time, which she said had no effect on the bear, but she credits the bottle for helping hold the bear at bay, possibly because she hit it with bear spray early in the encounter.

    “It knew I had something in my hand that would spray it,” she said. “I think that’s what kept it from coming any closer.”

    Jones-Robinson got the feeling the bear was sizing her and the girls up.

    “I don’t know if it was bluff charging or ascertaining our ability,” she said. “I think it was ascertaining whether I was a predator that it could handle. It knew it had to get through me first.”

    Jones-Robinson never did see a second bear, which the girls told her was smaller than the other one, but she has no reason to believe there wasn’t a second bear.

    Trail still open

    State park ranger Dane Happ, who spoke to Jones-Robinson by phone Thursday after the incident, suspects the bear or bears that accosted the hikers are one or both of the same cubs that were seen with a sow along the trail and in the campground at the trailhead last year.

    “I’m wondering if this is related,” Happ said. “I wonder if this bear is one of the cubs that got kicked away by its mom.”

    The trail remains open and park rangers on Friday were in the process of putting up signs to alert hikers of the situation, Happ said.

    Anyone hiking the trail should be bear aware, the ranger said. Happ recommended hiking in groups and making lots of noise to alert bears. If camping, keep a clean camp and keep food away from the campsite, he said.

    Happ advised against leaving backpacks or food behind if confronted by a bear because it habituates them to humans. Once a bear gets food from a backpack, it conditions them to think all backpacks contain food, the ranger said.

    “It sounds like this one is getting habituated,” Happ said.

    When they finally reached the trailhead a couple hours after the confrontation, Jones-Robinson said her adrenaline was still pumping.

    “When I got down off the mountain I collapsed,” she said. “I was overwhelmed.”

    Their ordeal wasn’t over.

    When they got to the trailhead a couple hours later, Jones-Robinson and the girls had to hitch a ride to Chena Hot Springs Resort because the keys to their car were in her backpack, which was 5 miles back up the trail, and their spare key was locked inside the car. They had to hire a locksmith to open the car.

    Jones-Robinson still was having a hard time comprehending the whole thing Friday.

    “If somebody had told me I would hold off one or possibly two bears with a walking stick and a can of natural insect repellent I would have told them they were crazy, but you do what you gotta do,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let that bear eat my dog and I definitely wasn’t going to let it eat my nieces.”

    Which might explain why Jones-Robinson went out and bought a gun Friday.

    Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

    Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Woman two girls get bear scare on Granite Tors Trail
  8. Glacier Pilot

    Glacier Pilot Been here awhile

    Sep 2, 2011
    Klawock, Alaska
    My neighbor was treed by a moose for over an hour.. he unloaded a can of bear spray on it.. as far as he could tell it just make it REAL mad. Also if you discharge a can, (hopefully the wind doesn't blow it back on you) leave the area as soon as possible. Once the active pepper dissapates what is left behind is a very sweet candy smell that will attract every bear for miles.
  9. Wolfgang55

    Wolfgang55 Long timer

    Dec 24, 2006
    Only N flowin river emptying in an ocean
    Don't know if you'll like this or not but if you can try it out on an old rug at home.

    There is a wasp spray which has a lot of petro in its make up. One could put a big flame lighter about 6-8'' from the business end of the can & spray it out. One MUST move ones hand as soon as it gets started but don't let off the spray. Once burning it will continue to burn as long as one feeds it fuel.
    There is something in the spray it self that causes a bit of stickiness. One may figure out the effect on a charging bears face.
    Have seen some that had a lighter taped in front of the nozzle against the can. But that would be a choice call. Whatever one does, know that this is only one thing that could be done to protect oneself. Wasp seem to react in a positive manner.

    One would think this would be a pretty fair "keep away" signal & might stop a charging anything before it could get hurt too.

    Just be a good soul & throw the can in the proper trash bin marked "Metal Cans ONLY"
  10. speedracertdi

    speedracertdi Been here awhile

    Jun 11, 2009
    Hollywood, FL
    Well from all the comments here it seems like bear spray is just as effective squirting a bear with a water pistol. I don't think trying to spray a flammable liquid and lighting it with a lighter is very practical in this setting. If a bear is that close, I don't think anyone will have the presence of mind to light if off properly. It works for the movies and drunk rednecks that say "Hey, watch this!"

    I thinking a flare gun with the whistlers and bear bang loads are going to work the best. Anyone tried these?
  11. CappyRidesAgain

    CappyRidesAgain Nom nom nom

    Dec 10, 2008
    Kodiak, AK
    MVP likes this.
  12. f650624

    f650624 Snowbird

    Mar 9, 2007
    East Dakota-North Texas-Alaska
    Bear Spray and Bells are quite useful. They are very good tools to use when on the trail to tell brown bear sign from black bear sign. The brown bear sign has bells in it and it smells like pepper.
  13. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

    Sep 29, 2003
    Over the rear wheel
    The 12 gauge BANG loads seem to be most effective.
  14. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

    Jan 12, 2003
    In Your Head

    I'll hike w/ Jack. Pepper spray, flaming hairspray (or whatever) isn't anywhere near what I'd want to rely on.

    A hammer would be better than nothing but if you have a choice, make it a good one.
  15. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

    Apr 20, 2006
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Google "bear spray effectiveness."

    As a lifelong Alaskan who used to shoot competitively and reload my own ammo, I still prefer spray.

    And no, I haven't had to use it (yet) and yes I did discharge a 44mag once to scare a bear away. Man, the flames coming out of a 4" are sure pretty at night! :D

    I'll bet the flames coming out of my 3" 454 are a LOT bigger but is sure ain't as much fun to shoot, less of course it's only loaded with .45 Long Colt. :wink:

    Good luck and have fun, Mark H.
  16. simestd

    simestd Packet plumber Supporter

    Sep 16, 2010
    Anchorage, AK
    One of the per-requisites for being allowed to camp in Denali National Park is an annual viewing of the Staying Safe in Bear Country video. It's a little dry, but the the park has a remarkable record of people camping in bear dense areas without harm.

    <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" width="640"></iframe>
  17. speedracertdi

    speedracertdi Been here awhile

    Jun 11, 2009
    Hollywood, FL
    Some good info so far. I was in the local hardware store and they had the canned air horns on sale so I picked one up. I've read they're a good loud noise maker that will scare off wildlife.
  18. willys

    willys Long timer

    Jan 26, 2006
    Lake Simcoe Ont.
    Air horn or bear bangers are both the best defence against bears as long as they aren't already on top of you. I just came back from a 5 week adventure to Alaska from Toronto and I will admit I was semi worried about the larger bears further north but after a couple of very close encounters....I'm much more relaxed about bears. We had stopped on the side of the road to photograph some mountain sheep or goats that were standing on what looked steeper than a 45 degree slope. I had shut off my bike and was fiddling around for my camera when I noticed that a grizzly had casually walked down the slope as if it were a table top and was maybe 8 feet from me and walking past going on his way. He stopped casually turned his head and glanced up at me and instantly decided that I wasn't a threat and moved on. I could have spat on him he was so close and if he had wanted to have an early supper he could have easily had me. The other time was while walking back from my shower I happened to walk within 20-25 feet of a mother and two cubs....she grunted and I then noticed her as she sent the cubs up the tree. They can climb a tree faster than a squirrel when mom says to! She too, looked at me as I stood motionlessly and decided that once again I wasn't worth the effort to worry about seeing as I hadn't made any forward movement towards her cubs. I managed to get to my tent which was 3 sites over from her and get my camera and returned to take many pics of the happy family. I was slowly moving closer as I felt it wasn't too dangerous, probably not a wise thing to do, when she had enough of me she stodd up and then pounded the ground to warn me to stop and back off now! I took that as my final warning as the guy who was standing behind me explained. I, we backed off and she went on her way eating dandilion leaves etc. As soon as the cubs had come down from the tree and were following mom I let off a bear banger and they all went running into the woods.
    Both of these bears could have eaten me without a problem IMHO IF they had wanted to once I first saw them. The second bear warned me very well that she wasn't too pleased with me after I got within that magical distance to her and her cubs. She could have easily got to me before I could have gotten away.

    So....firearms are not needed unless the bear is within 6 feet of you and moving frward with intent to harm you....bear bangers or an airhorn will send them on their way without their loss of life and possibly yours too. If you do shoot a bear and don't kill it with the first shot or're toast! IMHO......:deal
  19. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

    Jan 12, 2003
    In Your Head
    I get a lot of 'em in my yard. All the time in the summer.

    On my back porch...


    In my driveway...


    This is a sow and three cubs in my yard...


    They're all over the place. The cop next door to me tazered one last year or year before. I'd never try that.

    First rule: Be observant and know that they aren't like a mean dog.

    Second rule: Stay the hell away. Try a telephoto lens.

    Third rule: If something does go terribly wrong I prefer the most lethal option be at hand. My hand; not the SAR guy that comes in later.

    I've been around these things for 5 decades and there isn't an issue 95+% of the time but when there is... Relying on whatever the last thing the fish and game guy said as a passive solution in an aggressive situation seems ridiculous to me. I've never had to kill one that I ran into incidentally but I've also never been in a situation where things were getting scary and I was bummed that I didn't have a horn or a can of flaming hairspray instead of a Blackhawk.

    That perspective btw, is of zero value to anyone traveling through Canada.

    There was a very large brownie hanging out next to the confluence of the Russian and Kenai last week. I'd have felt better armed but wasn't and nothing happened but this:

  20. friar mike

    friar mike IronButtGruver

    Apr 21, 2004
    Wasilla Alaska
    As you can see when Iam fly fishing I have my favorite tool on my back. As for a side arm I prefer a redhawk over a black for me having to cocking it is just one less thing to do if I don't want to. Looks like not to far from the same spot Legion.