Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bear safety while hunting

Some sage advice from Rick Sinnott summarizing the research on bear attacks on Alaskans, and the best defence against them:

Is a firearm better protection than bear spray? Bear spray -- a concoction of propellants and capsaicin (from red pepper) that burns the eyes and mucous membranes -- is effective up to about 30-35 feet. Dr. Tom Smith, Herrero and others assessed the effectiveness of bear spray in 72 incidents in Alaska where someone used it in defense. Bear spray was effective in 92 percent of the 50 cases involving grizzlies and 90 percent of the 20 cases involving black bears. No one who used bear spray was killed. In the nine instances where a grizzly charged a person, the bear broke off the encounter after it was sprayed, and only one person was injured. The injury was relatively minor, deep scratches requiring stitches. Eventually, someone who uses bear spray will be severely injured or killed by the bear. But it seems clear that bear spray promises to be at least as effective at preventing maulings as a firearm.
I would actually go further than he would, and say that despite my earlier critique of of research on the subject, bear spray is more effective than firearms. I've been sprayed before, and even with my puny human nose, it was incapacitatingly painful. And I only got a short burst. When I hunt, I always carry bear spray too, despite the fact that I obviously have a gun, and have it at the ready.

Of course, the best deterrent is the one you actually use. Bear spray is uesless if it's at the bottom of your pack, or you don't spray the bear...