I'm sure this one will open up a big can of worms, but here goes...
I understand the need/desire to carry bear spray in places where trash bears are prevalent... i. e. Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Tetons NP, etc. Bears that are conditioned to people have a tendency to act strangely.
My question is in regards to more 'natural' grizzly bear habitat. I want to know what most people do who spend serious time in truly wild places in Montana, Idaho, Alberta, etc. I'm not talking about people who go hunting in ATVs for two weeks every fall or people who fly out and do some sightseeing in the national parks. I'm talking about people who actually live and work and hang out in the woods all the time... people who literally spend hundreds of days in grizzly bear country each year, not just a few long weekends.
Of course, the answer is probably that they carry guns, but personally I have no interest in doing so. My decision is bear spray or nothing.
I have spent perhaps 1000 camping days in black bear country mostly in California throughout the past 5 years, I always have my dog with me, and I have seen perhaps a dozen black bears in that time (plus another dozen in one month in SE Alaska... and those numbers only include sightings when I am on foot, not when I am in my truck), all of them have run away once I announced my presence, and there have been no issues. I always keep roughly one month food supply in my truck and often keep a food bin outside around camp, and I have never had any issues with food security (except the occasional scrub jay or ground squirrel). That said, when I go to Yosemite NP or Whitney Portal, I make sure to clean my truck thoroughly, because all bets are off in these abnormal places where bears have become habituated to humans.
I wonder if the situation is similar in Montana, as well. Obviously weird things happen at the national parks, but I don't go there, I don't particularly like the crowds and I don't deal well with all of the rules. I have worked extensively in central Montana (mostly in the Little Belts), where grizzlies are more or less absent. I may begin working shortly around Helena and potentially in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which is prime grizzly bear habitat. I am wondering whether or not I should carry bear spray to work with me.
I am not worried about the cost. I am concerned about the practicality of carrying/wearing the can/holster at all times in the backcountry. What are people's experiences with bear spray in wild areas in the northern rockies that are not heavily traveled by tourists? Do most grizzlies just run away like black bears and elk and mountain lions and everything else? How does the dog affect things?
I don't want to be stupid and unprepared, but I've learned over the years that a lot of supposed dangers in the wilderness are totally over-rated (don't drink the water, don't hike alone, watch out for mountain lions) and are ignored by most serious backcountry ramblers)
Right now I'm leaning towards keeping a can at my backcountry camp (where long-term food storage issues could lead to an encounter with a hungry bear), but not bothering to carry it around at work during the day in addition to a heavy load of forestry gear, etc.
Sorry for the long diatribe, but thanks in advance for the advice.