|Bear spray canisters and holsters |
Alaska news-blogger Craig Medred has posted on this repeatedly. The main issue seems to be that minority of black bears (not griz) who turn predator, but grizzlies are always of concern as well.
Twenty-seven-year-old Erin Johnson from Anchorage died June 19 after she and a coworker were attacked by a predatory black bear while doing environmental studies in brushy forest about five miles from the state’s largest underground gold mine. . .
Sean Farley, a bear researcher and wildlife physiologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, emphasized that bear spray has proven hugely effective on charging bears, especially charging grizzlies.The post goes on to talk about risk-assessment: "Statistically, you are orders of magnitude more likely to die in a motor vehicle or boating accident in Alaska than to be attacked by a bear, let alone killed by one." But fear of bears is more primal than fear of motorboats.
But he noted the physical state of those bears. They charge with eyes wide open, nostrils flaring and often huffing air into their lungs. They are fully exposed to the active ingredient in the spray – oleoresin capsicum, an oily extract from the pepper plant.
Unlike tear gas, which appears to work poorly on bears, capsicum causes more than just irritation to the eyes. Inhaled, it inflames airways making it temporarily harder to breathe and from what is known about research on humans, it might do even more than that.
A charging grizzly is likely to get a big dose of capsicum. That is not necessarily the case for a predatory bear. . . . Farley describes predatory bears as approaching with eyes squinting, mouths shut and nostrils narrowed. They come in like bears approaching beehives ready to suffer a bit to get the food they want. Their physical preparations would serve to minimize the dose of spray hitting the bear.
And there is speculation on the changing nature of predators world-wide. Read it all.
The big about bears approaching beehives reminded me of when my late brother-in-law was raising hogs on his farm in southeastern Missouri. His was a small operation, maybe a dozen or so at a time, partly for the family and partly for sale.
He told me about one particular hog that would bust through an electric fence. The pig knew that it would get shocked, so it started squealing before it hit the fence, but it still wanted to break through more than it did not want to be shocked. There is no reason why some bear might not take the same attitude toward bear spray.
I still carry it at appropriate times, however. It also works well on overly aggressive dogs. And I see that Medred still carries it too.