[cdt-l] Bear Spray

RICHARD MALLERY dickebird at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 12:36:59 CDT 2007

I have only carried bear spray in recent years.During my '99 CDT hike
I helped two rangers search for a lost woman in the Heart Lake Geyser
Basin. While searching, my two new friends noticed that I was not
carrying bear spray. They said, "What do you carry for bear
protection?" I quickly drew out my sawed-off road flare. I told them I
had been carrying a flare for thirty years. What do animals fear more
than hot, phosphorus fire?
They laughed uncontrollably and asked me if I had ever had to use my
flare. "No," I replied—a little indignant.
Still chuckling they said, "What are you going to do if you pull out
that flare and the bear keeps coming?"
"I'm going to use it as a suppository and outrun him." I said, " What
are you two going to do with that bear spray if it doesn't work?"
People are now more inclined to take their chances using bear spray.
This method works best if you keep your composure while five-hundred
pounds of muscle, blood and bone charge you like a freight train. You
have to wait until the bear is right in your face (to be sure he's not
bluffing), then irritate him just a little more with pepper spray.
After listening to a morning full of ranger experiences, I began to
carry spray as an added insurance against some unfortunate encounter.
As it turned out, just two weeks later in our search area, a
backpacker from Seattle was brutally attacked by a sow grizzly with
cubs. He carried spray in a chest holster but he did not have enough
warning to even get his hands on the spray.
A ranger in Yellowstone's Hayden Valley was forced to repel a grizzly
using his spray. He explained, that like most people he panicked and
fired too soon. The wind blew the repellant back into his face and he
could hardly see. He dropped to nearby Broad Creek and began flushing
his eyes with cold water. He said he could hear splashing  close by
and when he could finally make out the figure next to him, it was the
bear flushing his eyes out with water.
What will most likely happen if you are attacked by a large aggressive
animal is your brain will automatically instruct your body to "play
opossum." We have all heard this term but what does it really mean? An
opossum is not the smartest critter in the woods. They are not
sophisticated enough to stage dramatics. What actually happens is
this: An opossum sees a fox coming and panics. He becomes so scared
the blood runs from his head, he faints and poops on himself. The fox
is no longer interested in this lifeless, smelly corpse and moves on.
The opossum comes to and can't believe he's still alive.
Whistling, singing and poetry are your best defense when hiking. It
has been fairly well-proven that "bear bells" are not effective.
Biologists have rigged bells along game trails, and bears have not
even shown a reaction to the sound. One theory is that bears register
the sound as natural—perhaps a birdsong. You can always drop into the
fatal (I mean fetal) position and do what the opossum does. --Keep

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