There are divergent opinions about how to best protect oneself from bear and mountain lion attacks while traveling in the wilderness. The battle of words has been raging between gun owners and those to avow less violent means of protecting themselves from animals and other ferricious beasts (a.k.a. man and his best friend) but all of us will certainly agree that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
More appropriately having bear spray on the hip gives a bit more reassurance than having nothing at all (especially in areas where guns are restricted such as National Parks). For many of us it is preferred defense against attacks. Most bear deterrent sprays cost less than $50 U.S. and are well worth the cost.
Most carriers of bear spray will never be faced with an opportunity to have use it, but in the rare cases where a confrontation cannot be avoided it will save a life.
According to studies of human-bear encounters by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Calgary, hunters who used firearms to defend themselves against grizzlies were much more likely to be injured or killed than those who used bear spray.
The main ingredient in bear spray, which evolved more than a decade ago from tear gas and pepper spray used by police, is a derivative of capsaicin, a red-pepper oil that causes severe irritation to the mouth, eyes, nose and lungs. The effects of the spray decrease within 30 to 40 minutes and have no permanent last effects on the animal.
Information on Bear Safety
As with all hiking and climbing in Bear Country use caution and practice good manners with the wildlife. Carry bear deterrent, don’t hike alone and make some noise.
For more information please go to the Glacier National Park's website for Bear Information.
Air Travel: It is against U.S. air travel regulations to carry more than 4 oz. of pepper spray on an airplane (even in checked baggage). The increased air pressure can cause the can to rupture and release its contents in the plane. Large amounts of pepper spray would be bad news on an airplane.
Vehicle Travel: At least one manufacturer produces a container that the deterrent can be stored in while traveling in a vehicle. This will help prevent accidental disbursement due to overheating while sitting in a hot car and this aides in a more enjoyable drive and keep everyone's eyes dry.
Here are the specifics for taking the spray into Canada: In years past it was illegal to take bear deterrent across the U.S. / Canadian Border. Fortunately that has changed. Now it is allowed as long as it is for personal protection, meets certain specifications and that it returns with the owner.
Be aware that you may not be able to cross the U.S. / Canada border with some brands of bear spray. Canadian Customs will allow the importations of USEPA-approved bear spray into Canada. Specifications state that the bear spray must have USEPA on the label. American manufactured bear deterrent cannot be sold in Canada. Many manufacturers make spray for the Canadian market.
The can must be 9 ounces or larger and clearly marked as a bear deterrent. The can must have the USDA repellent registration.
If you are asked if you have bear spray or mace specifically state that you have bear spray. The agent may want to see the container.
Please check your local area's regulations for specifics on restrictions and travel requirements.