Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies

With all the debate lately over whether visitors should be allowed to carry weapons in national parks, much has been said about the need for protection against wild animals, bears in particular. Well, studies show bear spray is a much more effective deterrent than a speeding bullet.

Evidence of human-bear encounters even suggests that shooting a bear can escalate the seriousness of an attack, while encounters where firearms are not used are less likely to result in injury or death of the human or the bear. While firearms can kill a bear, can a bullet kill quickly enough -- and can the shooter be accurate enough -- to prevent a dangerous, even fatal, attack?

The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled
marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun. Law
enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality --
based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and
defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons
defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured
experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.

That snippet was taken from a report prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can find the entire document attached below.

USFWS Bear Spray vs. Bullets.pdf50.36 KB


This issue isn't about protection from bears. Why do people on this site want to confuse the issue. This is a constitutional issue. Everyone wants to debate on what the founding fathers meant by the second ammendment but no one wants to accept what the thought of the second ammendment and why they wanted it in there. Read this and tell me what there is to debate?

*First, Thomas Jefferson: No Freeman shall ever be disbarred from the use of arms.
*Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self-defense, John Adams.
*The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed with Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, where the Government are afraid to trust their people with arms, James Madison.
*Arms discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world as well as property. Horrid mischief would ensue if the law-abiding were deprived the use of private arms, Thomas Payne.
*Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined, nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants. They serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides from an unarmed man, may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man, Thomas Jefferson.
*A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves. They include all men capable of bearing arms. To preserve liberty is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms and be taught alike how to use them, Richard Henry Lee.
*The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms, Samuel Adams.
*I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them, George Mason.

Stop trying to teach an agenda contrary to the constitution just because you were taught that guns are bad and you look a news story and feel that this "agency" is your great affection for truth. Ask yourself, Why wasn't I taught these quotes in grade school? Why do we not discuss medical malpractice as the big killer it is? Why do we not outlaw french fries? Why are we ok with alcohol as a legal substance? How can we not see that freedoms are only enjoyed when a government respects it's people? When people are able to live how they want to live? How can government tell you when you can and can't protect your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?

How can you consider yourself a responsible journalist who has no bias, but repeatedly on your site you express your opinion about guns and then when the discussion reaches a point you're no longer comfortable with you'll end the discussion? I would have thought sensorship would be the last thing a journalist would every instigate.

Not about protection against bears? That's one of the issues the NRA has raised in pushing this topic, and one many previous comments have touched on.

Beyond that, though, aren't we a "people of laws"? Or should we just be able to pick and choose which laws to obey based on whether we like that law or not?

An interesting analysis of the 2nd Amendment can be found here.

Here's a snippet:

The attitude of Americans toward the military was much different in the 1790's than it is today. Standing armies were mistrusted, as they had been used as tools of oppression by the monarchs of Europe for centuries. In the war for independence, there had been a regular army, but much of the fighting had been done by the state militias, under the command of local officers. Aside from the war, militias were needed because attacks were relatively common, whether by bandits, Indians, and even by troops from other states.

Today, the state militias have evolved into the National Guard in every state. These soldiers, while part-time, are professionally trained and armed by the government. No longer are regular, non-Guardsmen, expected to take up arms in defense of the state or the nation (though the US Code does still recognize the unorganized militia as an entity, and state laws vary on the subject [10 USC 311]).

This is in great contrast to the way things were at the time of adoption of the 2nd Amendment. Many state constitutions had a right to bear arms for the purposes of the maintenance of the militia. Many had laws that required men of age to own a gun and supplies, including powder and bullets.

That said, the issue on these pages is whether the current regulation, which allows you to take your gun into a national park as long as it's unloaded and not easily accessible, is reasonable.

whoever did this study is insane . theres no way i'd go up against a bear attacking with a bear spray. i would very much like to see a real attack be staved off by bearspray. a grizzly thats mad can run faster than a race horse for short distances . also you don't know when a bear might attack. they can be silent as can be . i carried a 12 ga bullpup loaded in my cruiser when on duty as park ranger and used bronze or copper solids. i never had to use it but if i had i would've . now you could turn a curious grizzly or possibly one thats acting up some but an already attacking grizzly i doubt that very much. i left the service because of lamebrained pencil pushers not knowing what the real job entailed. what can i say.

We eventually evolve.
They are discussing a country at a time where fewer people were present.
They are discussing this between men with male mentality. I have been held up by gun point. Being a female I know that if I had had this gun you so readily rely on that I would not have had the guts or any way to pull this gun out and get out of the situation alive.
Stop relying on a document that needs justifiable readjusting.
This "gun" issue is about allowing arms in National Parks and has been used to references for protection against wildlife. I hike ALONE in the parks every year for weeks on end, I don't need to have to worry about humans also or that I have to carry a gun when I don't want to and normally don't feel the need to. I don't want to see a bear stand up on his hind legs to get a better look and have some tourist freak out and shoot the bear.
There is no need for guns in parks.
Carry bear spray, not only does it work much better on bears but it also works very well on humans. No one gets permanently damaged in the meantime. The point is taken.
People hang on to the consitution as if the world will remain the same. There are millions in our jail system because of gun misuse compared to the two or three when Adams was President. Population wasn't considered when the constitution was scribed. At least in my opinion it wasn't.


Many people have used bear spray during charges. Many people have used guns. If a bear is coming at you from 50 feet away at 35 mph what do you think your chances are of getting your gun out, aiming and shooting to kill? (Iif you miss you will definitely be mauled and possibly die, so you HAVE to kill it first shot and hope you can get off another shot WHILE he's mauling you.) You have 6 seconds or less and fear running through your system. Good luck. Now if you miss, which you probably will, the bear will be very angry, mauling probably intensified. If you play dead and the bear SEEMS to leave and you move he may come back to finish off the job. You lay, bleeding, in the wild, near a pissed off bear (but where?) and wait 30 minutes (?) an hour (?) before you crawl out HOPING he doesn't come back.
Pull out bear spray from your hip holster and shoot slightly down in a sweeping motion and that bear will most PROBABLY be scared from the sound of the spray alone but if not get a good whiff, lung full, eye full and veer off. Instead coming back to maul he will be high tailing it, suffocating and trying to rub the stuff off. Time to SLOWLY back out of there. Actually standing upright.

To Kurt,
Thank you for the information.
I believe that there is no need for anyone to carry a weapon in our national parks.
Your response to 'Anonymous' was civil and level headed.
I would really rather have 'Anonymous' and Tom (not verified) keep their guns unloaded and out of reach.
Our current law is fine.

I'm not sure Anonymous has though of all the issues. If it's a simple constitutional debate, they why are the National Parks the target for having weapons in? Why not airports, courtrooms and federal buildings too? The simple fact is that guns kill people. I know there's the whole people kill people thing, but the gun really helps a lot.

"Beyond that, though, aren't we a "people of laws"? Or should we just be able to pick and choose which laws to obey based on whether we like that law or not?"


As everyone knows the 2nd amendment question is being reviewed in the Supreme Court. That aside, you asked the above question. The precedent which has been set by our sanctuary city and state governments is if they don't agree with the law they ignore it and may even encourage the breaking of the law. I think we can agree that the answer to your question is becoming more and more pick and choose.

The right to carry in parks is being handled legislatively. At least this issue is being debated with respect to the law. For instance, Wyoming has not come out and told its law enforcement personnel to ignore the federal authority. That's what happens in our cities where police are forbidden to assist in the enforcement of federal laws. I am sure if rangers needed assistance from local law enforcement on this current law they would get it. If it was a question of an immigration law, desertion from the military, or some other law we maybe didn’t like the answer is no help to that agency.


In response to tom:

The folks that did this study are not insane. The likelihood of hitting and successfully killing a bear with a gun is quite low unless you are well trained to not only be a "good shot" but to also be able to make the shot under extremely stressful circumstances. Plus, it's very likely that if you simply wound the bear, you have a better chance of the bear coming back to attack you. However, given the wide range of bearspray and the reaction from bears (which is documented) you are more likely to deter a bear attack with the spray then with a gun. Saying we need guns in National Parks to protect ourselves from the wild animals is just fear mongering. A careful and respectful hiker knows how to handle her or himself and avoid encounters with bears.

One additional point that you elude to is the difficulty in telling whether or not a bear is going to attack. A curious bear standing on its hind legs does not mean an attack is inevitable, but given the fear the pro-gun side is preaching, I am certain that the numbers of bears and other wildlife species will be killed because someone unfamiliar with animal behavior gets scared will skyrocket.

Let's leave the rule as it stands.

As you know, I am a strong supporter of gun rights. This issue isn't about bears. It's about rights, like we are exercising in this blog. We don't all agree, but we have the right to say what we feel as guaranteed by the 1st amendment. We are only seeking to exercise the God-given right we have to defend ourselves as guaranteed by the 2nd amendment without being arrested for violating NPS rules and regulations.

The NRPM will be released on April 30. We, the people, will have a 90-day period to make comments about the proposed rule change. I suspect that about 73% of the comments will favor allowing concealed-permit holders to carry their firearms in National Parks. It will be an interesting discussion.

Fred, true, the 1st Amendment gives us the right to speak our minds, but there are laws against slandering folks, inciting a riot, and shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Keeping that in mind, I don't think it's unreasonable, or an infringement on the 2nd Amendment, to have laws that dictate where weapons are allowed or in what manner they might be transported.

As I pointed out earlier, this movement, if it succeeds, will really create a regulatory nightmare in parks such as Yellowstone, Death Valley, Great Smoky Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, all of which span more than one state. Will gun owners worry about which state they're in and what laws they have to follow? Judging from previous comments under this issue, no. But rangers will, theoretically, have to police the laws. Any guess on how many gun owners will protest about unreasonable searches?

And really, if the NRA and gun-rights advocates are so determined to carry weapons wherever they go, why focus on national parks? Why push legislation that would rely on what existing state laws say? Why not seek a uniform, nation-wide concealed carry authorization?

Fred Miller wrote:

This issue isn't about bears. It's about rights

I guess I misread Kurt's title of this article: Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies

I suggest that you're failing to examine the issue of your rights more deeply. A gun, narrowly defined as a device that ignites an explosive, causing expanding gas to propel a projectile, is merely a technology that can be used for "defense" against an attacker. The basic right I think you're talking about is self-defense, not owning a particular piece of technology. If your definition of "defensive arms" was a bit less narrow, I could easily see pepper spray classified as a side-arm. Indeed, it is a device designed entirely for the purpose of self -defense. And in the case of the study Kurt cites which compared the effectiveness of two different technologies at defending someone against a potential bear attack, your favorite technology was shown to be less effective.

As for another right, when the constitution talks about freedom of the press, do you think they're only talking about the printing press? Do computer printers count? Does the constitution not guarantee freedom of communication (mass or otherwise) by modes like radio, television, Internet, blogs, or podcasts because these technologies aren't explicitly mentioned in the first amendment? The basic issue is speech, not the age-old technology of the printing press.

Likewise, in self-defense, the issue is appropriate and effective defense, not a right to use the ages-old technology of lead and black powder.
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Just curious, but why do people want to carry an unloaded gun into a park?

To all of those who think you need (or should have the right) to to carry fire arms in the national parks for defense of bears or people let me say this: I personally have witnessed a bear being shot while charging. A long story short, My Uncle got startled, shot in the air, the bear charged, my uncle shot the bear in the shoulder, and by the way he is a very good shot, the bear chased me up a tree, my uncle shot one more time. Needless to say I have not hunted in well over 30 years and won't ever again. 3 years ago I was camping in the same area of northern Montana, I startled a bear while hiking, I believe it was a bluff charge, never the less it charged. I used pepper spray, and did not have to play dead, run or climb any tree. That bear turned away trying to get the the spray off. So I personally see no need for concealed weapons in the National Parks. I can see someone getting spooked and not only wounding a bear or worse but maybe shooting a bystander.

chances are of getting your gun out, aiming and shooting about the same as getting your spray out aiming and spraying and if the sound of the spray would scare the bear then the sound of a gun would do the same. don't get me wrong, I don't think a side arm would stop a bear only make him mad, unless it's a mini cannon. I am for the guns only for self protection from other predators that may want sommething in my RV, human type. I am not for carrying weapons just want to have on onboard.

Well bear sprays come in hip holsters, Counter Assault anyway, where you can just shoot from the hip. Also if you are in an area that looks like bears are indeed around you should have your spray out at the ready. Yes, the bear would hear the gun noise, the difference is that you are trying to aim a gun to STOP the bear so the shot has to be a pretty good one and after the sound, comes the entry of a bullet which doesn't register fast enough or hurt (assuming with high probability that you haven't made a kill shot) bad enough to stop the bear. If the noise from the spray doesn't scare the bear, or doesn't scare the bear in enough time the bear still has to make it through the mist. In fact, he may even make it to you, but chances are when he inhales that first breath he will panic (most animals do, including us, when they can no longer breath or see) making his initial intent to maul you the last thing on his list to worry about and stop short or get in one swipe before panic sets in and he leaves. Using good bear protocol while out should be top priority and knowing bear sign and the area can lower your chances of a negative encounter. Bears are wonderful creatures if people would just give them the respect they deserve. Watch a bear, really watch one, and the last thing you will want to do is carry a weapon with the intent to kill should this creature come too near your personal space. Counter Assault will be your top deterrent allowing both you and the bear a safe and wonderful experience.

So here's a few questions to throw out for everyone to chew on...if this proposal passes should something be done to change current laws to deter careless citizens from discharging their firearms whenever they feel threatend by wildlife within the park? Or are current laws that deal with poaching etc, enough to punish those idiots who take it upon themselves to fire first and then look around to see what they could have done differently to aviod the situation. OR do you think citizens will be able to handle the extra responsibility a loaded gun now puts on them? OR will citizens even BE punished if they shoot wildlife claiming "self defense"? Sorry Mr Repansheck, I know this forum is about bear spray but I figured some of these questions are related to this topic.

I can tell [that this woman] only hikes in small parks in CA only. What an idiot! You only have 6 can you get that damn clip off your "PEPPER ME FOR TASTE" can before the bear gets to you in 6 seconds. The shot of a bullet has always scared off every animal i have ever encountered. And when i bear hunt the first shot will drop him almost every time within minutes of him trying to RUN AWAY!! Pepper spray....the mear smell of the pepper in the spray can make a bear come around!! And if the bear spray is old it will be innafective on the bear! AND lets say you make your spraying sweeping motion with your "hair SPRAY pepper" and its really windy or rainy and it goes the wrong way..or if you were a hunter you would know a bear or any animal will turn and go with the wind to double back that means as the bear is charging you...and the bear is going 25 mph with a 15 mph wind your SPRAY will be in your FACE!! And let the MAULING BEGIN!! yeah i want to trust my life to something a mear strong wind will make it be gone or in my own face, i cant trust something like that!! Carry a gun! This lady has no idea of what to do. [Ed. This comment was edited to remove a concluding personal remark of an extremely offensive nature.]

Why has no one brought up the fact that bear "spray" is useless USELESS on a windey day!! And if the animal is coming down (with the wind) your spray will only go into your face or the face of your loved ones!! And the "sound" she keeps talking about will be UNHEARD by the bear! TRY THIS...take your hair spray out side on a windey day or a big fire retardant can...and spray it into the WIND!! IN YOUR FACE IT ALL you smell like yummy yummy PEPPER to the bear..when the burn wears off you are left with a food type yummy odor on you after you have been mauled!! So why would i carry something that the wind can render it USELESS or can attract a bear in the forst place and can be OLD and out of DATE!! You wanna carry bear spray...knock yourself out...but the gun carrying person will be the one to save your life!! And troubled bears that are rereleased back into the wilderness are often shot at with rubber if you shoot a bear or only wound will remember the pain and fear of the LOUD noises. It has no fear of the SPRAY can...and even less on a WINDY DAY!!

I think there is a selection problem in the study. Most people are only going to fire a gun if they really feel threatened. I'm not as sure about the pepper spray (see the last paragraph). So the gun defense cases are going to be serious ones while the peper spray defense cases may not be, which could explain the different results as well as the differences in effectiveness.

I'm not arguing against pepper spray but anytime the government makes a decision for you, watch out. A gun is also more useful in many situations: two legged predators, mountain lions, dogs, put down a deer hit by a car, etc. Also, one reason police carry guns is that pepper spray just doesn't work on some people or in some situations. Bears are probably the same way.

In my few encounters with bears, we both moved in opposite directions when seeing the other. I still wish I had had something with me for comfort. I've looked a bear spray but haven't bought. The bear spray I saw at REI a few years ago was pricey and weighed more than my 357. Did they say what type worked and what didn't? That link looked like only a summary.

Montanan, thanks for your imput, I have to admit that I never thought about the affects of wind, and would sure hate to get the spray on me!!! I have heard that bear spray does work, but under what conditions, I don't know. I myself would like to carry both. I am a gun owner, and I do know that your chances of hitting a charging bear with either the spray or handgun isn't in your favor.

"For some bears, like those protecting a nearby carcass, the (bear) spray may not do much good. But it's unlikely to hurt anything either.
"In no case did use of the spray appear to be responsible for increasing the extent of injury," ....researchers found.
....But one thing is clear: Guns kill a lot of bears. And they don't always work either. Grizzlies with bullets in them have gone on to maim a lot of hunters before they died.............
......He emptied his .357 Magnum pistol at point blank range but told investigators he didn't know if he hit the bear or not. He fired the first shot as she (the grizzly) chewed on his backpack.......and started firing again as she sank her teeth in his thigh and began shaking him violently, which makes marksmanship difficult, even at close range. The bear backed up a few feet, then ran away. Investigators found no trace of her, her cubs, or a carcass.
"It's clear that a gun is not the best close-range defense," (said the victim of the bear attack later). "For close range, the fastest, most effective, humane way to stop a charging bear is bear pepper spray."
Dave Moody, a bear manager for the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept.... (is) sold on pepper spray. "No doubt about it in my mind," he says. "It's more effective than a gun.""...........From "Mark of the Grizzly" by Scott McMillion copyright 1998.

This is my biggest fear about loaded weapons in National Parks. I worry about the animals. I really don't care about a couple of guys shooting each other over a camp sight. Think it's unlikely. But this..... How many curious bears, surprised on the trail, who stand up to get a better look, or bluff charge, or jump up from a day bed, who normally would have simply run off, are now going to be shot by some inexperienced city slicker packing heat, creating an extremely dangerous situation for both bear and hiker? Or other hikers, possibly families with young children, that a wounded, running, bear might run into further up the trail?
I wouldn't be so opposed to the whole concealed weapons in National Parks thing if the law was clear: You could use your gun to defend yourself against HUMAN attackers, but NOT against animals under any circumstances. To do so would be a federal offense prosecutable to the full extent of the law. I say this for several reasons. 1) Guns tend to give individuals (especially those inexperienced in a wilderness situation...which is an awful lot of people in National Parks) a FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY, causing them to do things that they would not otherwise do. 2) No matter all the talk about "good, law abiding citizens" there are always going to be a few who are going to shoot an animal for reasons of their own and claim "self defense". 3) Bear spray has been proven more effective against actual animal attacks, regardless the species; and no permanent harm is done if it was used in a "bluff charge" situation. 4) Most bear charges are bluff charges. 5) The danger from bears is overestimated by the average park visitor (once again, especially by those who have little or no wilderness experience), as long as park rules are being followed: 100 yards etc. Indeed, three times more people are injured by bison in Yellowstone (for example) than by bears; yet the average park visitor does not perceive bison to be a threat. There is only an average of one bear related injury in Yellowstone every year, despite hundreds of close encounters between visitors and bears; and the last bear related human death was over twenty years ago. And 6) Animal attacks, and especially animal attacks that result in serious injury or death are EXTREMELY rare in National Parks. When they do occur it is nearly always because a visitor was in violation of park rules OR the rules of common sense (Tim Treadwell, Jim Cole, Bill Tesinsky (Google him)).

It's absolutely amazing how Kurt can post an article on one topic and from the git-go have the discussion on the merits of the study mentioned within the context of the article twisted into something so foreign as to not remotely resemble the origianl printed text. I'm just curious how many of the sub-authors are as expert in their usage of bear spray as they are with firearms and with pushing an agenda so laced with propaganda as to be almost incredible, that is, lacking in credibility. Something tells me that few people carry both firearms and spray cans. And by the way, you don't have to be NEARLY as accurate discharging spray to effectively combat a bear as is required with firearms.

No one other than rangers needs guns in our National Parks. We don't have enough rangers or enough visitors with common sense NOW !! Can you imagine those idiots who "posed" with a bison and had their 12-year old son tossed having a gun......dead bison because of their stupidity !

If you respect the wildlife and let them know you are around, you are fairly safe in our wild places. If you don't, you shouldn't be there in the first place. Carry bear spray and make noise, do not panic when a bear simply stands on its hind legs to take a better look. Give them respect and room in roam. Remember, it is THEIR homes you are visiting !!!

From 1980-2002, over 62 million people visited Yellowstone National Park (YNP). During the same period, 32 people were injured by bears. The chance of being injured by a bear while in the park is approximately 1 in 1.9 million. Kerry A. Gunther
Bear Management Office
Yellowstone National Park

During every minute of every day, roughly 1,800 thunderstorms are creating lightning somewhere on Earth. Though the chances of being struck by lightning are estimated at 1 in 700,000, these huge electrical sparks are one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the USA each year with an average of 73 people killed; about 300 people usually are injured by lightning......USA Today

If you are worried about bears enough to feel that any reasonable person would want to carry a gun for protection (from bears) in Yellowstone, then it only makes sense that any reasonable person would take the precaution of staying indoors as a protection against lightening, since your chance of being struck by lightening are two and a half times greater than your chance of being injured by a bear while visiting Yellowstone. Kind of puts it into perspective.

Your chance of being the victim of a violent crime while visiting a National Park have also been demonstrated to be less than your chance of being struck by lightening. So I guess my question would be: What the heck are you doing outdoors?!

Betty, I shudder to think what might have happened if Dad or some well meaning bystander had put a couple of slugs into that 2000 lb. behemoth that tossed the twelve year old boy! How many people would have been injured or killed as it thrashed around in fury at that busy trail head before it died!? If it even DID die, rather than running off into the woods (endangering even more park visitors) to be hunted down by Park rangers faced with a dangerous animal that had to be put out of its misery. Even IF a well placed bullet managed somehow to bring it down instantly, what lesson will we have taught other youngsters (or even older visitors) who may have been present? That it's OK to violate rules (read that LAWS) that are put into place for everyone's safety, because someone will pull out a gun and save the day?

You people amaze me. I do NOT have to justify my NEED to have my firearm. YOU have to justify why YOU think it is OK for you try to strip me of my Constitutional RIGHT !!

Fred, "you people amaze me". What a trite statement that lacks substance of thought. Fred, why are you so consumed on this gun issue, as if your the chief spokesman for the NRA. Nobody is taking away your constitutional right to own a gun. It's your constant whining that puts this gun issue into a mode of political firebranding against those who have the slightest distaste for guns and gun violence. We know it's your damn right to own a handgun..etc... I'm tired of you being a professional month piece for the NRA and your constant tirade that were taking away your "constitutional right" to own a gun. Nonsense! Now, get on with your life!!

Can you carry a gun in the Supreme Court building? No! Can you carry a gun in other government buildings? No! Can you carry a gun in airports? No. Can you carry a gun on board airplanes? No. Can you carry a gun on school campuses? No. Can you carry a gun in police stations? No. Can you carry a gun in bars? Not in many states. Not loaded, not unloaded. Not cased, not packed away in most of these places. Can you have a gun in a National Park? YES! It simply has to be unloaded and packed away. Why the obsession with National Parks, one of the safest places you could find yourself? No one is going to take your gun away from you at the gates of a National Park! You will simply be asked to unload it and pack it away. In most of these other places your gun WILL be taken away from you and likely you WILL go to jail.
I have a Constitutional right to freedom of speech, yet I can be arrested for yelling, "FIRE!" in a crowded theater; for threatening the President of the United States, or for spouting obscenities in public.
In the recent Supreme Court decision regarding handguns in DC, Judge Scalia said nothing in the ruling should "cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, OR LAWS FORBIDDING THE CARRYING OF FIREARMS IN SENSITIVE PLACES SUCH AS SCHOOLS AND GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS." I would submit that our National Park Service is charged with protecting our most "sensitive" historical and ecological places. That our parks represent to the world peace, conservation, and all of the best that human beings in general, and Americans in particular, can achieve. As such I would suggest that loaded firearms are incongruous with that representation.

"I do NOT have to justify my NEED to have my firearm." I disagree. In most states you need to acquire a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and by applying for that permit you are "justifying" your "need" to carry a firearm.
As Judge Scalia wrote, the justices in the majority "are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country" and believe the Constitution "leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, INCLUDING SOME MEASURES REGULATING HANDGUNS."

Why do the Park Rangers need to carry handguns? They don't have a need too if they're not as effective on bears and the Rangers (assuming that they are people too) have a higher chance of hurting themselves. Furthermore, as "Frank N" points out

Your chance of being the victim of a violent crime while visiting a National Park have also been demonstrated to be less than your chance of being struck by lightening.
and since you only have a 1 in 1.9 million chances of being injured by a bear then why the need for bear spray? Just think of the amount of steel that goes into producing each can not to mention most bear spray is oil-based.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spends more time managing people then it does the fish and game.

Actually thousands of people hike in Yellowstone every year without carrying bear spray (many families with young children), while thousands of others that hike with it never use it. I started carrying it several years ago at the insistence of my kids. I never felt the need for it when I didn't have it, and never have since I've been carrying it. I have been hiking/packing Yellowstone for over forty years (as well as Glacier, Canada and your state). Sometimes I feel a little silly with my spray dangling from my waist as eight and ten year old kids run by me on the trail with their parents, all completely unarmed. Guns and bear spray are the same. They are both like booze to an alcoholic. They simply give a false sense of bravery and security. The best thing to carry regarding safety is common sense. If you don't have that, no gun or spray in the world is going to help you in the back country. In the time it takes to read THIS sentence, you would get your first look at a charging bear and it could be on top of you. Time's up. Did you get that gun or spray out? Did you have time to aim and fire ACCURATELY? At least with spray you don't have to be accurate. The number one cause of death in Parks is accidents (with drowning leading the list in the back country).
A friend of mine carries one of those air horns they use at basketball games. Just a small one, fits in his pocket. He claims to have turned a charging bison with the thing. I believe him!
Rangers carry guns because they are police officers. Poachers aren't interested in going along just because the ranger asks nice. There are crimes in National Parks. Just very,very very little violent crime involving visitors.
I'll say it again. If you are that worried about violent crime in National Parks, you have no business even being outside.

So why does the sound of the spray scare off the bear... but not the sound of the gun? It sounds like you have it in your mind guns are bad no matter what. Don't make yourself sound so silly.

I am not as concerned about bears as I am about the possibility of some deranged maniac out to do harm to me or some other innocent person(s) who are out enjoying the great outdoors. While crimes such as robbery, rape and murder are more prevalent in the cities they do occur in national parks (wilderness areas) not your national monument type areas. A person with a concealed weapons license isn't going to bother anyone, unless you are the deranged maniac out to hurt someone. No one ever thinks it will happen to them, but violent crime does happen. All the liberal mind anti gun sentiment in the world will not change anything. I have never seen a ranger off the asphalt in a national park. They won't get to you until after you have been victimized. So to all the anti gunners out there who have never had the the proper positve education about firearms and probably never served this great nation in the armed forces maybe you can run and get away from the thug. Hope you don't run into a bear during your getaway, if you are so lucky.

Dear Armed and proud: Please remember that many (perhaps most?) who oppose concealed carry in the national parks are not "anti-gun." Take me for instance. I've owned and used guns for going on sixty years now. There's probably more firepower in my closet (properly secured, of course) than in yours, and unless you are exceptionally good, I am a better marksman and wingshot than you are (practice, practice, practice). I have never harmed myself or another human being with a weapon, accidentally or otherwise, and I trained my son to be just about the most careful hunter and responsible gun owner there ever was. My point here is that you need to be more careful when you sling those "anti-gun" remarks around. You may be offending some people you shouldn't want to.

grizI'm taking both (gun and spray) on the trail where bears and cougars are known....whether blessed by the gov't or not. As long as drug cartels are growing pot in our national go unarmed for protection is foolish.

Unfortunately, taking away guns are not going to take away the intent to commit crime, murder most of all...There are many crimes (that result in death) where guns are not involved...I am an educated chemical engineer, not just some backwoods Kentucky hick with a shotgun, although those people do exist...My reason for chiming in is simple...the black bear population in Eastern Kentucky is on the rise. I mt. bike, hike, and backpack in Eastern KY with my wife all year long...I have also always been an avid hunter (mostly bow more than gun) and have always had a respect for our right to bear arms. Contact with bears is something I have not had much experience with, which is what led me to this discussion...I definitely see the benefits of the bear spray, having read much documentation on it. I will say that if it works as well as many people say it does, I will stick it on my hip from now on, just in case...I am also a serious conservationist, meaning I would rather watch animals in the wild theses days than hunt them. As for the right to bear arms...well, I stand beside the people who support freedom....freedom in its most raw form....If not, we have become exactly what we were trying to escape....Great Britain...I think we should focus on a more educated society, which apparently is way down on the agenda...With an educated society not focused on capitalism some issues cease to exist...Imagine if everyone were educated and trying to help each other instead of trying to screw each other for money, which has become the norm in our country....No mortgage crisis, no 50 billlion dollar scandal, etc...I am ashamed at what America has become...

As I was scanning the posts I felt like I was in one of those pro/anti gun debates I often get in with my friends. First gun ownership and use is a personal choice for most and a legal right for law abiding citizens. The fact is that legal gun owners, especially ones with concealed license, are sane and safe. Bears would be the last thing on my mind while wandering in remote areas in a national forest, parks or on private land. The most dangerous and unpredictable beast is simply man. I have heard of people being killed in protected parks and forest even in low crime states like VA. These areas are targets for criminals looking for victims for the simple reason that they know you are by law unarmed and have little chance of being detected by witnesses. Look at the crime statistics in "shall issue" states and you will see violent crime decreases while areas with the most severe gun laws typically have rising crime rates. The answer to needing a gun to ward off a grizzly is simply don't count on it. One shot stops on big bears are rare and unlikely when under duress. Shot guns with slugs are best but you wont likely have time to get it into action if the bear charges from close up, and unnecessary when they are far away. Big handguns are heavy and hard to master and only a few have the power to quickly kill big bears, however, if I were to carry a weapon in bear country, I would probably carry at least a 44 mag with a short barrel. The safest method is to stay alert and make a lot of noise when hiking and never go alone. Most fatalities are when people are alone and quietly sneak up on the bear. You would probably have more risk of a limb falling out of a tree and hitting you than a bear anyway.

Any aggresiveness from you will definitely anger the bear more, always act defensively be calm, use bear spray but also hold a survival knife with your right master hand, you need only one hand to spray the bear,if the bear is undeterred use your survival knife to defend yourself by allowing the bear to touch the razor tip of blade to warn that you can inflict pain on him. Stay upright but if you fall curl up yourself holding the survival knife with two hands pointing upwards tostab the bear in case it crawls up near you

To the "Anonymous" who commented today on how to be aggressive yourself against an aggresive bear, he might rethink his solution if he ever encounters a bear that close to his body. Sounds like a real winner, Anon - for the bear.

Obviously, one can carry both a firearm and bear spray, at the same time. There is nothing mutually exclusive about the two tools.

Bear-spray is intended to perform like a chemical shot-gun - extra powerful and not aim-sensitive: To defend against sudden & close attack (human or animal), the weapon of choice has always been the shotgun - not a pistol or rifle. The power of bear spray (against any mammal species) continues to work in the immediate vicinity for a useful period of time following the initial discharge. That's a good thing, in any kind of attack.

There has been an intentional liberal-progressive aspiration & effort over the last half-century to deprecate private firearm ownership in the United States. This issue is on par with religion, though contrary to Pres. Obama's indicated perception, they are largely separate matters. Still, it is useful to imagine trying to dissuade the religious of their conviction, as a proxy for persuading gun-owners that their attitude toward firearms is 'so 18th C.'.

Terrorism is an excellent commentary on the notion that we have evolved beyond the need or importance of private (i.e., dispersed, optionally cloaked) armament. Although North America is not presently convulsed by terrorist actions ... neither was the Middle East, a couple generations ago.

Likewise, the potential for malignant government (a major motive behind the 2nd Amendment), while not currently on display in North America, is more than amply exhibited on all scales, all around the planet.

So yes ... bear spray may be the tool of choice in a close-quarters bear-attack, but that hardly has anything to do with why we have & continue to support the Second Amendment. Empowerment of the citizen is very American, in the Founding Era context, and will remain strongly appealing and profoundly useful in the 21st Century, and beyond.

In fact, wild animal threats have absolutely nothing to do with American firearm ownership & Rights. Although there were dangerous animals and a need for meat on the early frontiers, those were not and are not the reasons for codifying private gun ownership into the Constitution. It's not Apple & Oranges - it's closer to Apples & Hickies.

Liberal-progressive anti-gun sentiment, I think reached its zenith some little while in the past, and current invocations of the notion are largely the expression of a dissipating social momentum. Once it became clear to mainstream Americans that gun-opponents might actually succeed in depriving the nation of private firearms (rather than merely expressing their personal antipathy to guns, which can be safely ignored/allowed), I think what we have seen an ongoing case of "waking the sleeping giant". America as a whole has a strong pro-security, pro-military, pro-gun stance. Even many who choose not to own a gun themselves, do not join the military, and decline to educate themselves on security issues, nonetheless firmly support those who do so on all our behalf.

Bear spray is a good thing ... as are firearms. I don't see a conflict ... or any relationship.

The thing is that with pepper spray, you get a fog pattern and it can be fired from the hip or the chest. Aim is not that critical. I am a former corrections officer and spent many hours on the range. I can only imagine having a couple of seconds to draw a weapon (assuming I don't get it stuck in my jacket or shirt tail), aim at a fast moving bear (perhaps moving erratically and with little or no advance notice), and hit the vital spots (with ammo sufficient to penetrate a bear's tough exterior) and while probably stumbling backwards from the surprise. I can say that under the circumstances, I'd be hard-pressed to stop the bear or mountain lion, or coyote, etc. Saying that, I have a CCW permit that is reciprocal on both sides of my favorite national park in my end of the country--the Smokies--TN/NC, plus my own state as well as most others. I do admit that up to this point I've never carried a weapon in park areas, other than a knife and hiking pole. But, having kids makes me reconsider that "one time" that might unexpectedly happen. Last year, a boy was attacked twice by a bear with menningitis on the TN side of the Smokies. His dad wrestled the bear off of him and it chased him down the trail and attacked him again. Then it attacked two rangers who responded to investigate. You never know... Another issue is the issue of caliber. Big calibers = heavy guns. I would prefer to not carry a heavy gun. Interestingly, a few years back, I saw an old guy in Wal Mart with a Ruger hogleg strapped to his side. It was somewhat disconcerting, even though it was legal. I think I would have preferred it concealed...out of sight, out of mind. He was also one of those wierd looking old guys...spooky enough by itself. If I'm just hiking the local Mammoth Cave NP, I might not carry anything...or some pepper spray in case any dogs on the north side trails decide they don't like me. A former NPS ranger buddy once knocked a dog out with a hiking pole as it attacked him on a trail. If I'm in a more remote area, I just might decide to carry a weapon if I feel the need to. I do think I'll start carrying pepper spray...just in case. But, I do feel that people should be competent and have a sufficient caliber; not overwhelming. I wouldn't want to make a bear mad with a .22 pistol. I joked with a ranger a couple of years ago at the Smokies as we were watching a mother bear and her 3 cubs (long time residents of Cades Cove) casually walk past us, if her taser would have any effect on the bear. She said it would definitely serve to piss her off royally. Given my druthers, I don't want to hurt any animal. LIke some of the other posts, the issue of humans might be of more concern. There are lots of nuts out there. I dealt with many of them. Opportunistic predators may not be as prevalent as camera snatchers, but if I'm camping in the backcountry and somebody comes up, who knows if they are nuts? Campers have been killed by nutjobs and escaped felons. Would I shoot one? Well...threaten me or my kids and let's find out. As far as an "innocent" animal that is just being what it is...I would try to avoid it. But, better me than them if it comes down to it. So now we have a dichotomy of the percentage of risk vs. the advantage of pepper spray vs. firearms. But, if you have a CCW, why not be allowed to carry if you want to...

all you have to do is watch a few episodes from cops to see that pepper spray shot directly in the face of drunk suspects tends to only work at times. Although a bad odor sounds like something I would leave my life to as a deterrent (sarcasm) what I do know as fact is that a .223 remington round fired out of an ar-15 will puncture an engine block and bring a semi truck to a stop. For those of you that are unfimiliar with firearms this is basically the smallest hunting round possible.(not some super huge cannon round) Anything able to stop an automoblie has to give you more protection than a can of spray, and you can't tell me that it will have no effect on a bear. As far as cases of bears being put down when "Bluff charging" your right some innocent bears might get injured or killed. In my oppinion however my life, my childrens lives, and that of any humans for that matter comes before that of a bears. The other things to consider is other predatory animals. I saw a "when animals attack" type of show once that spotlighted a young child that was attacked by a rapid mountain lion that had the childs head in its mouth, and luckly for him his uncle had a glock 17 9mm pistol that he was able to use to force the lion to release. and as was pointed out the likley hood of an attack is slim to say the least so instances of firearms being discharge are not going to be running rampant. So if you prefer spray or a high powered metal projectile travling at 3500 feet per second either way you should have the right to choose.

Just a few points, sir..I don't expect to convince you of anything.

First off, the pepper spray shot at drunks is far weaker than what you get for bears, as I understand it.

Second, there's no debate by anyone with a brain that a gun doesn't have the capability of killing a bear. The problem is aim...the bear is charging, you're tense because, as you seem to continue pointing out, the bear is charging your child, and you have to hit what, something the size of a basketball? If you hit the stomach, or the shoulder, or a leg...

Now, this article isn't here to debate anything. Kurt was simply pointing out what studies show. Studies are studies, sir, and there is now evidence, by actually events, that bear spray is more effective than a gun. Take it as you will.

I would note that a 2.5 oz (maximum legal self-defense) personal protection pepper spray is not the same as a 8-13 oz can of 2% OC bear spray. Theoretically the bear spray is considered a pesticide (California law calls it an "economic poison") and in many states carries legal consequences for its use against humans.

The big problems seen with stopping drunks or drugged out users is that they might not feel the pain. A bear (not likely to be high on PCP) receiving a fog of 2% OC spray will feel the burn and more than likely won't be able to see well enough to attack anyone.

Not sure about an AR-15. I thought that one would weight about 9 lbs loaded. I'm trying to figure out who might carry one ready to use like a scene from a Vietnam War movie. In any case, I've heard the recommendations in Alaska for bear country are for 12 gauge shotguns with slugs or high-powered hunting rifles. I'm not sure a .223 (which is really designed as a combat weapon against humans) will stop a charging bear unless it's a direct hit to the head or major organ. It might be able to punch a hole in an engine block, but things are far different when it's a bear with soft tissue that might not stop with only a minor flesh wound.

I remember the 1988 movie "Shoot to Kill" with Sidney Poitier. His character was an FBI agent trying to track someone in the woods when he and his guide came across a grizzly bear. He asked his guide if he should shoot it with his revolver, and the guide said, "Nah - you'll probably just piss him off."

I agree fully. Its nice to see sombody with a level headed responce in this forum. I think that pepper spray is a more effective deterant for wildlife than a firearm but I have always carried both while camping in certain areas. I want to be able to keep large predators/assailants away without having to employ deadly force. I would also like an effective way to employ deadly force if it became neccesary. (I appologize for my spelling throughout this ppg.) If I am a law abiding citizen of this country and I have been granted the right to carry a weapon why should I be stripped of that right in a park? In short, if you are very brave go with nothing, if you are prudent go with spray, if you are fully prepared go with both.

Thanks all
it is an interesting topic to be sure.

Interesting topic? Mildly... I was looking for some studies to show a friend regarding the efficacy of bear spray on grizzly bears and I ran across this discussion. Much ado about nothing really. We're discussing allowing law abiding people, who have taken the trouble to apply for and obtain a concealed weapons permit, to carry a defensive handgun concealed upon their person. It would be a rare individual indeed who would be carrying concealed upon their person a handgun of sufficient power to stop a grizzly. Most of the handguns designed around this issue are not readily concealable, and if it were truly a handgun for defense against grizzlies, I'd not want it concealed anyway. Too slow to retrieve from within clothing and jackets, and when the issue arises you will not have the time.

I carry pepperspray when I am in bear territory. I've fished mostly, and hunted a little in Alaska. Fishing the Kenai peninsula I carried my 12 gauge shotgun, locked and loaded, and a can of bear spray. My primary choice would be pepper spray, given a couple of things. 1. The wind is not blowing back in my face. Pepper spray will blow back into your face. The last thing you want to be is blinded by your own defense while trying to repel a charging bear. Bears actually like the pepper spray, and will lick the ground and items sprayed with it minutes or days later. 2. I am not sleeping in a tent... confined within a tent, you'd have to be something of a fool to think this would have any effect on a bear which has pounced on the side of the tent or is coming through the side of it.

I am not horrifically worried about bears, and them attacking me. It can happen, and bears in "populated areas" like the in the Kenai area or other places where they are regularly exposed to humans and get "human food" are not as fearful of people as those in "wild" areas. In some areas all you will ever see of a grizzly bear is his big butt wheeling off into the sunset when he figures out you are there, and then you're lucky to see him. Around the Kenai and I would venture certain areas of Yellowstone and other park areas, bears are not quite so timid.

One thing has always been clear to researchers, and myself after reading a few studies and books, and being out around bears. Do not ever take anything regarding bears for granted. Each and every one has a unique personality and each situation when you're dealing with them is unique.

I favor allowing concealed weapons permit holders to carry their firearms where ever they go. They have been vetted, and have a permit. They are not the people you need to be worried about having firearms. The ones you need to be worried about are those who do not care what the law says. The murderers, rapists, robbers, drug dealers, and gang bangers are the ones you should concern yourselves with. They're the same ones that CCW permit holders are concerned with.

Great piece of work on the study, by the way. I will forward it to my friend who does not believe in bear spray. I will also continue to carry my shotgun. Hoping for a one stop shot on a bear is a bit foolish, and I'd never bring a .223 Remington or anything that fired it into bear country for defense. It will not penetrate an engine block and stop a truck. I've shot a few of them, and they're good for stopping small to medium sized game, humans included when necessary. But not a grizzly bear, not in my hands. An old guide explained the "process" to me once, and I'll trust his instruction. He's shot, and guided hunters who shot, a whole bunch of bears over the years. He was 93 when I met him, and he didn't get that old being stupid. He said, in short, "Break him down... make sure your first shot gets him in one of his front shoulders or his chest/collarbone... he's going to fall onto that side... back up, and when he makes his feet again, hit him in the other one... make it stick. Once his front legs are useless, he might already be dead anyway, then put him out of his misery.

Cruel? Don't know... I've spoken to a couple of people who were mauled by a bear, and seen pictures and read accounts of fatal attacks. That process does not sound terribly "humane" to me. Sounds to me like it sucked, really bad. Don't spend much time worrying about it, as it's rare. No more time than I spend fretting about a car accident... but I drive carefully and wear my seatbelt too. And I carry bear spray and an appropriate firearm when I am in bear territory. Like my seatbelt, it too is "always on".

It's a tragedy when a bear is killed by a human in defense of life and property, it really is. That said, define what it is when someone is horrifically mauled or killed by a bear. No nitwits from the lower 48 who have never seen a bear need respond. If the bear dying is a tragedy, then the human being mauled and or killed is something worse.

Thank you. This guns don't kill people, people kill people nonsense is the stupidest non-argument I've ever heard. If you can't kill someone with a gun, what's the point of having it? To make coffee? To water the lawn? A gun is a tool, a killing tool. There is no other use for it, that's its primary function.

The implication being that you are able to get a shot off and are able to hit a vital organ on a charging animal, no small feat. I'll stick to pepper spray, where I don't have to worry about aim. The data apparently backs me up.

Well tom, the great thing about scientific studies is that opinion doesnt come into it. There have been numerous studies on real Alaska grizzly bear encounters over the last couple decades, including one by the USGS in Alaska that studied 377 cases of grizzly encounters. In the cases where people defended themselves with bear spray, they escaped injury 98% of the time. When they used firearms, they escaped injury only 60% of the time....what would you use? It isn't a matter of brute force, it's about intelligence. It is very difficult to react and accurately get an instant kill shot on a charging grizzly, thus it is better to make him change his mind about attacking. Bear spray is very effective at doing this. If you don't like it, that's fine, but when your ignorance catches up to you if you are ever to encounter a grizzly, hopefully you will be on the lucky side of the 60% figure.

LoL it is very ovious that most of you have never seen pissed off black let alone grizzley. you people are full of it try your bear spray on a 200 lb crack head, and he will still kick your but but a Grizzley get a life.
You don't even know a bear from a donkey. go drink some more coctails,.

Actually, I HAVE seen a pissed off black bear, from about 3' away. He was coming into one end of the pup tent I was sleeping in.

I didn't have a pistol and didn't have bear spray. What I had was brand new batteries in a high power flashlight and when I startled him with the bright light in his eyes he turned and ran.

That, was a bear. I trust you know the donkeys a bit more than I.