Mandatory Backcountry Bear Spray In Wyoming?

Wyoming introduces a bill that would require permitted backcountry users to carry bear spray.

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If you’re the sort of daredevil who regularly heads into Yellowstone or Teton’s grizzly-filled backcountry without protection, you may be forced to change your ways. Wyoming plans to introduce legislation that will require backcountry users to carry bear spray.

The bill, introduced by Teton County Attorney Steve Weichman at the Yellowstone Grizzly Coordinating Committee meeting last Thursday In Jackson Hole, Wyo., would require backcountry users in grizzly country to obtain permits to carry bear spray. Many hunters oppose this rule; they say going for the spray would force them to drop their guns—often their preferred method of bear deterrence.

“There are some instances, when you’re not surprising the animal, when you may have time to get your pepper spray out,” he said. “[But] when you stumble into a bear, the minimal time you have to respond is not adequate to go through the though process [of getting your bear spray out]. You’re talking milliseconds. It’s illogical that you’re going to set your gun down and get your pepper spray.”

(P.S. many bear spray canisters come with holsters that allow you to shoot from the hip with out being drawn.)

Hunter flack is to be expected, but with grizzly-human encounters on the rise, Montana’s reintroduction of the grizzly to the Endangered Species List, and high numbers of female grizzlies found dead in the last year, politicians and scientists hope to deter grizzlies through nonlethal methods. Grand Teton National Park jumped on the bandwagon with a bear spray requirement that so far has met with little resistance by hunters.

Weichman’s case is further bolstered by scientific data from Brigham Young University professor Thomas Smith. His study on bear spray effectiveness found that bear spray stopped aggressive bear attacks 92 percent of the time, while bullets only stopped attacks 67 percent of the time.

Now Weichman hopes to find a sponsor for the bill, and plans to work harder to get hunter support.

Do you carry bear spray in the backcountry? Or do you employ alternate methods to keep bears away? Let us know in the comments section below!

–Jordan Olmsted

Bear Spray Bill On The Way (Jackson Hole News & Guide)