There are enough studies to show that, in many situations, a can of bear spray is a solid deterrent against grizzly bears.

Wyoming Game and Fish recommends people carry a can with them in bear country and provides cans to their staff. 

That all makes sense and we’re glad G&F is weighing in on the issue. We’re also pleased the department is not taking the matter further and requiring hunters carry spray in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where grizzlies roam.

At some point people need to decide for themselves how best to protect themselves while weighing evidence and taking into consideration available facts.

Rather than mandate a new policy, at a recent G&F commission meeting the members philosophically endorsed the carrying of bear spray by all individuals engaging in any form of recreation in the backcountry and said they should know how to use it as a self-defense mechanism.

Many people in the region already carry bear spray but want to feel confident in choosing the most effective defense depending on the circumstance.

Recent bear encounters have displayed a variety of ways to deter bears, from spray to warning shots to taking down a bear with a large caliber handgun or hunting rifle.

If desired, hunters should feel comfortable in choosing to level his or her hunting rifle on a charging bear if time doesn’t allow to reach for the can of spray.

The issue was brought by a number of the same groups that have also fought against grizzly hunting and Endangered Species Act delisting in court and have said their aim is to prevent both hunter injuries and bear fatalities.

It is true many grizzly fatalities from conflict with people involve hunters, but hunters shouldn’t have to think for even a second that their split-section decision to use the gun in their hands is the wrong one. 

Bear spray can be effective, but the defense immediately accessible is always the best.


(1) comment


One, a study on the Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska showed that 3 of 9 people who sprayed charging grizzlies were injured. The injury rate would have been higher but the study did not include data on incidents when people who carried bear spray did not have time to use it. Two, Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska was about non-hunters using bear spray. It's not logical to assume the research on bear spray use by non-hunters (who are not carrying a rifle) proves that hunters (who are carrying a rifle) can use bear spray. Three, Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska was mostly about bear spray use against non-aggressive bears. So the data is largely meaningless to hunters trying to survive encounters with aggressive grizzly bears; typically, a surprise encounter with a grizzly at close range.

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