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Q: Is it possible to deter a bear with a Taser? Just wondering.—Mike Rawley, via email
A: Let me answer your question succinctly: Don’t tase me, bro!
Actually, a better response might be “can’t tase me, bro.” My thick skin and fur seriously limits the ability of Taser probes to even penetrate, which they have to do in order to deliver their jolt.
Even if you land a shot, a Taser or stun gun is unlikely to slow or stop me the way it might work on humans (keep in mind that even sufficiently agitated humans have resisted the involuntary muscle spasms caused by a Taser).
Shocking no one (except the bear), someone has tried it. There is evidence of police in Washington using a Taser on a small black bear, and while it certainly deterred the bear, it didn’t have the desired effect:
Chandler said a police officer used a Taser on the bear. “If you Tase a human, they usually say, ‘I give up!’ and stay down,” he said. But as soon as the officer turned off the Taser, the bear got up and tried to run.
Some wildlife managers think that Tasers could eventually have a place in their tool kit. In the late aughts, Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, researched the question. He even had luck ending an attack by a mama moose that was preventing him and a law enforcement officer from retrieving her babies from a basement they had fallen into; like the bear, the moose fell down upon being tased, then got up and ran away.
That said, tasing most bears is almost certain to do more harm than good. If you do land a shock on a large, aggressive bear, it’s likely to only agitate me even further (sometimes even guns just agitate me). Also, with one shot in a 35-foot range, you’ve got extremely limited chances to even hit me.
Once again, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here: bear spray is a better, safer, cheaper, and easier deterrent. Obviously, nothing is perfect and bear spray isn’t a substitute for situational awareness. But while detractors love to focus on the occasional person who gets mauled even though they used the spicy stuff, it works more reliably than any other deterrent we know of, including guns. And if you even try anything funny on me with a stun gun, I’ll see you in court. I’ve got a bear of an attorney on retainer.
Got a question for the bear? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in 2010; last updated January 2022