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Backpacker Magazine – September 2000
It's basically pepper in an aerosol can, and it's supposed to stop a charging grizzly. But will it? Here's everything you need to know.
Yes it works, But...
"This Stuff Isn't Brains In A Can"
The big question, the one you don't want to answer while face to fang with a grizzly, is: Does bear spray really work? The answer is a qualified "yes," according to Stephen Herrero, Ph.D., author of Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance and professor of environmental science, University of Calgary, Alberta.
Dr. Herrero, a noted researcher of bear behavior and attacks, along with Andrew Higgins, a university colleague, examined 66 field cases in which various brands of spray were used on black and grizzly bears that displayed behavior ranging from overly curious to actively aggressive toward humans. They concluded that, "while we don't know how these encounters would have ended in the absence of spray, the use...appears to have prevented injury in most cases," Dr. Herrero says.
Dr. Herrero, other bear experts, and even spray manufacturers agree on one important point, however. Bear spray is a last resort after all other appropriate precautions--storing food in bearproof containers, keeping a clean camp, making lots of noise while hiking, steering clear of areas with fresh bear scat or digs--have failed and you suddenly find yourself confronted by an aggressive or persistent bruin. Says Dr. Herrero, quoting a fellow grizzly researcher, "This stuff isn't brains in a can."