Summer is here and for many RVers that means a visit to a national park or other rural or scenic area. In some of those places, humans are not the only creatures enjoying an experience with nature: among those other creatures — bears!
Sadly, the meeting of bears and humans occasionally ends up bad with humans coming out on the short end. Solution: Equip yourself with protection. In places like Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, the most effective way is bear spray.
Wearing bells, once thought effective, is no longer considered a dependable deterrent. It’s like the joke goes: How do you tell if poop on the trail is from a bear? Answer: it has bells in it!
Talking or whistling as you hike is good, but don’t say things like “Stay away Mr. Bear” or anything like that: Other hikers may hear only the word “Bear” and panic.
Bear spray, on the other hand, is effective in significantly reducing bear attacks with severe outcomes. It’s a non-lethal deterrent that uses a spritz of Capsicum (chili pepper) derivatives to temporarily reduce a bear’s ability to breath, see and smell, giving you time to flee.
When away from your RV, it’s wise to keep bear spray easily accessible. However, please note that the spray can explode if it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So do not store it in the passenger compartment of your car or near any heat sources. Do not use the spray like an insect repellent as it does not work when applied to people (you’ll be real sorry if you try this).
IF A BEAR IS APPROACHING YOU, remove the safety clip on the spray canister then aim slightly down and take any crosswinds into consideration. Spray when the bear is 30-60 feet away and make it so the animal must pass through a cloud of spray. Continue spraying at the bear until it changes direction.
What’s it like to use bear spray? Watch this video in which three Yellowstone park employees share their story about a surprise encounter with a grizzly in Yellowstone National Park.
Bear spray is typically available for purchase or even day rentals in National Park gift shops, sporting good stores and local mini-marts. Amazon sells a variety of brands.
Always select an EPA-approved product that is specifically designed to stop bears. Sprays designed for personal defense, jogger defense, law enforcement or military defense may not contain the correct ingredients or have the proper delivery system to stop a charging bear.