So many times I hear people talk about carrying bear spray versus a firearm when in a high predator area. Now, I agree with a lot of the research that bear spray is quite effective with regard to bears. It may or may not be the defensive weapon of choice. I do wonder how effective it is across the board with all predators and whether it should be a substitute for a gun or additional carry item.
Here are a few resources:
Shoot or Spray?
Living with Grizzlies
Using Bear Spray to Deter Mountain Lions
The Bear Necessities
WDFW Bear Spray Overview
MT FWP Effective Use of Bear Spray
Attacks by Cougar and Bear in US and Canada
Here are a couple observations that I gleamed from these resources:
- You are more likely to be killed by a bear, but attacked by a cougar.
- Attacks number higher overall (fatal and nonfatal) due to cougars.
- Bear spray works well on bears, but “MAY” help deter cougars.
- There is a huge push for bear spray for protection and guns have fallen out of favor.
In the articles, I can see how their scenarios play out better for use of bear spray. All the stories of attacks they use are close range charges where quick reaction and wide area of affect are the deciding factors in the encounter. There really was no mention of stalking or bears investigating your campsite. In those situations I have just fired a warning shot and the bear takes off. The same thing has worked for me with regard to cougars. Cats tend to stalk you and attack you from behind. They are ambush predators. The nice thing about cougars is that you can, a lot of times, smell them before you see them. There is definitely a musky, “death” smell for lack of better adjective when a cougar is around. This can help you out if you are being stalked.
No matter whether it be a bear or cougar that is messing with you, the statistics don’t cover a few things that the selected stories preach to support the author’s point of view. Each of the selected stories will lead you to believe that there is no time to think or react and you will be ambushed without warning. The reality is a bit different. Reality is that paying attention to detail, being extremely careful, and making sure to NOT be prey can give you some warning. It isn’t sure fire, but it is a start. This is a better approach than assuming you will be a victim. All about the situational awareness.
Now that I have ignored the anecdotal bedtime stories that support either spray or guns it is time to apply some common sense:
- Bear spray works really well on bears.
- Bear spray “may” help deter cougars.
- Bears are VERY hard to kill.
- Cougars are much easier to kill.
- Bear spray holsters and quick draw options are available.
- Pistol holsters are available in numerous quick draw options.
- Guns can be used to signal in times of distress in a louder manner than a whistle. Bear spray can’t signal anything with the “pssssfffttt” sound it makes.
- Guns can be used to feed myself in times of need. Bear spray just seasons the still alive menu item.
- Guns are effective against 2 legged threats even when they are on drugs. Bear spray “may” deter a 2 legged threat.
- Just the open carry of a gun “may” deter 2 legged threats. Bear spray is less likely. Studies on violent crime in cities supports this statement. If you wonder it’s veracity park a Maserati GranTurismo convertible full of gold on the street in South Chicago and see what wards off attacks best, guns or bear spray. I will stop by the hospital/morgue to check the bear spray results.
My personal opinion is that you should evaluate your situation and environment, then take the tools that will protect you in the best manner. No matter whether you choose bear spray, silly string or a S&W 500 each one has its uses and place. What I hope any reads took from this is that it doesn’t matter what you take. Just have great situational awareness, carry something to protect yourself, and don’t be negative because someone else chose something different.
Personally, I take a .44 mag or .357 in a cross draw configuration for quick access and a can of bear spray on a 550 cord “holster” in heavy bear areas. The extra weight I carry may just save my hind quarters……
Lastly, there was an incident in Alaska on Tuesday. It appears that someone stopped a charging bear with a pistol. The bear charged the guy from 20 yards away and was shot 5 times to stop it, then a final shot to finish it off. This is one of many pieces of anecdotal evidence that shows that firearms in the hands of someone trained will work to stop a charging bear. Ultimately, use what you want and are comfortable with as long as you are trained in its use.
Good luck and stay safe!!!