Bear Essentials

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Dispatches, July 1998

Bear Essentials

Pepper Spray: Oooh, Hit Me Again, Baby! By Paul Scott

Pepper spray, which sprang from research conducted by Carrie Hunt, has become the defense of choice in bear country. Recently, however, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher made a disturbing discovery: After spraying a section of beach in Alaska, Tom Smith observed bears rolling around in the stuff like a bunch of intoxicated felines in a bed of catnip. Yikes. Does this mean that pepper spray does to bears what Drakkar Noir is supposed to do to women in bars? Actually, no. Pepper can be effective if shot directly into a charging animal's nose or eyes. But it should never be applied randomly to an area as a general repellent. "When people put it on their backpack or tent, bears think it's food," explains Pride Johnson of Counter Assault, a popular brand. "They think they've hit the mother lode of barbecue potato chips."

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