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Discussion: How to carry bear spray

in: Orienteering; General

May 9, 2014 10:10 PM # 
The Canmore Nordic Centre is going to require competitors in most events that take place there (biking, running, etc) to carry bear spray with them. Orienteers will likely be in the "must carry" group.

Do you have suggestions about how to carry bear spray while orienteering?
May 9, 2014 10:45 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
May 9, 2014 11:11 PM # 
May 9, 2014 11:17 PM # 
I usually carry it on a fanny pack/hip belt in of two ways. Assuming you have an elasticized holster for it, attach that to the belt, but in addition, drop the holster inside a water bottle pouch to support it and keep it from bouncing around as much. Alternately, lay it horizontally in a fannyback, but keep the pocket in front of you. I prefer it there rather than on my fanny anyway.

If there are no bears around, just put it in a packback. A sure strategy if you'd like to see a bear ;-)
May 10, 2014 3:39 AM # 
Do you mean bells won't do?
May 10, 2014 4:09 AM # 
Doesn't really work in orienteering - gives away the control sites ;-)
And in general use, the tinkling of the bells drives everyone around mad and stats have shown that the bell wearer is more at risk from irritated fellow hikers than from bears!
May 10, 2014 5:05 AM # 
Grizzly scat contains small bells and smells of pepper.
May 10, 2014 5:34 AM # 
Really, only slower runners should be required to carry spray. Fast runners may not be able to outrun a bear, but........
May 10, 2014 11:35 AM # 
If the SI stations are filled up with vegemite everyone should keep enough on their sticks to go the distance.
May 10, 2014 12:25 PM # 
Always amused by irrational fears. Documented deaths by bear attacks average about 3 per year in North America. The most dangerous threat to your health in a campsite is your steak dinner.
May 10, 2014 1:14 PM # 
It would me much more rational to require everyone to carrier an epipen. And an AED.
May 10, 2014 1:15 PM # 
Always amused by irrational fears.

Come to Australia and see what we do to sharks. *rolls eyes*
May 10, 2014 2:33 PM # 
@Geoman Those lightning strike stats look scary. You won't catch me in the woods without my tinfoil hat and anti-crocodile whistle in my sac d'arse.
May 10, 2014 6:00 PM # 
May 10, 2014 7:18 PM # 
I tried a variation on Brian's suggestion today and it kind of worked.
I put the bear spray canister into a water bottle holder on my waist and stuffed and old shirt around it so that it would stay put.

It worked well - comfortable enough and seemed stable. Just a bit heavy. Bonus that I got two little pouches to store gels & cell phone
May 10, 2014 7:20 PM # 
But what if you want to carry water?
May 10, 2014 9:21 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Ask the bear for some when you see it.
May 11, 2014 4:51 AM # 
I sometimes take bear-spray running. I usually use a single water-bottle carrier. I put a water bottle in the holder and then put the bear-spray "holster" on the waist strap. To keep the bear spray from bouncing around, I use a heavy-duty elastic band around the water bottle and bear spray to keep the two together. It works Ok.
May 11, 2014 8:05 AM # 
put your water in bottle that looks like a bear spray canister
May 11, 2014 1:54 PM # 
Anybody know the rules on taking bear spray into Canada? I know that you are not allowed to take mace or pepper spray (it is considered a weapon), although I have heard there is an exception if it is specifically labelled as bear spray. Is that correct?

Also, you surely can't take it on an airplane. So it becomes a real nuisance for out of country guests.

So if a land manager or event organizer is going to require its use, they should be certain to have a supply of it available for loan, rent, or purchase on site (perhaps preorder through event registraton).
May 11, 2014 8:46 PM # 
When I carry pepper spray in a water bottle pocket or similar pouch that isn't totally secure, I tie it somehow to the pack (with a long-enough cord or bungie to be able to operate the spray) so if it falls or gets pulled out of the pouch, I don't lose it.
When working/hiking in bear country, I carry pepper spray on a fairly short bungie cord around my neck and one shoulder. Bungie allows enough length to operate the spray. I find this particularly useful hiking because, when I put my pack down, I still have the pepper spray with me as I wander away from my pack.. I think the bungie trick would work well running if I put an extra strap attached to the spray around my body to keep the spray from bouncing around.
May 11, 2014 9:33 PM # 
Have any of the people here with experience carrying bear spray ever had occasion to use it?
May 12, 2014 12:30 AM # 
I did see three black bears one evening while setting controls for a training event; one from quite close. It saw me and ambled off. Did not have spray with me. While out for a hike today (with spray, on my belt) I thought to myself - I've probably got greater chance of being attacked by a human than a bear.
May 12, 2014 12:42 AM # 
I've also seen bears (while orienteering, and while running), but never anywhere near close enough to use spray.

On the bright side, I bet it works pretty well in case of human attack, too!
May 12, 2014 1:07 AM # 

I found this on TripAdvisor. I checked the link and it seems to be still valid.

It would be best to hear from some folks who have practical experience with this. But, to get the ball rolling, here is what I have found:

If you find section 26, point C, in that document (pp 11-12), you will note that IF it is clearly labelled and designed to be used as animal repellant (and not as "pepper spray" against humans), then bear spray is listed as an exception to the rule barring such sprays as prohibited weapons.
May 12, 2014 3:24 AM # 
I have never had occasion to use pepper spray. I make a LOT of noise while traveling in bear country (including while orienteering) and I believe they get out of my way before I have a chance to see them.
May 12, 2014 4:48 AM # 
Oslug makes a good point - I think prevention by using noise is possibly a better approach. I carry an airhorn with me quite often and give a blast from time to time if I'm feeling antsy. I also "sing" a lot and call out (especially when mountain biking).

I suspect that noise (air horn, bear banger) would also be quite effective in case of an actual encounter too - though I have no real knowledge.

On the other hand, its not like we have a choice - carrying is going to be mandated in certain provincial parks where we are. Like MikeM says - perhaps this could be a good source of revenue for the club ;-)
May 12, 2014 8:02 AM # 
@geoman@jjcote So this is a compulsory non-solution to a non-problem?

Although I prefer the "penguin defence to polar bears" of living in Scotland, I have seen bears while running alone in the US and Canada. I imagine more bears have seen me. The advice here seems to be to make lots of noise and look try to look big, rather than draw a weapon, even if you have one: is that correct?
May 12, 2014 10:30 AM # 
I'm not questioning the policy, in case that's not clear. There are other precautions I could think of where the actual use is rare, e.g. I'm not sure I know anybody who has gotten up close and personal with an automotive airbag, but I want them in my car. I just wondered if people in bear country had to spray bears on a regular basis.

I would doublecheck the advice about looking big. Ensuring that you don't surprise a bear at close range, yes, for sure, the bear would rather leave the area and not have an encounter. Once an encounter occurs, I think maybe you don't want to look like a challenger, you'd rather be a submissive non-threat and the bear will leave. The opposite is true for mountain lions, where you don't want to look like prey, you'd rather look like something that can successfully tangle with the lion so that it goes elsewhere for lunch. For bear attack, curl up; for lion attack, fight back. But I am not an authority in this area, so get advice from somebody who is.
May 12, 2014 2:21 PM # 
There is no single 'best' response when encountering a black bear or grizzly. To a large degree it depends on the nature of the encounter and why the bear may be showing interest in you - 'curious', hungry, defending young? Most gov't wildlife agencies will have something like this:
May 12, 2014 3:07 PM # 
The general rule is to fight back also in the case of black bears as well as mountain lions (referred to as cougars around here). In the event of a grizzly attack though, play dead by lying spread eagle and face down, to make it more difficult for the bear to roll you over. Disclaimer: I've never tried this ;-)

Safety on the Bear Aware and the two linked sites site should be required reading and may clarify some points. Note especially, the comments near the bottom on making noise in Grizzly country.

Last year on a group day hike with about six people and two dogs, we saw a bear slowly following about 100m behind. We used two bangers, the first making it dart off a bit, then continue towards us. The second causing it to stop following, though it didn't run off. I haven't confirmed it with an expert, but from a photo someone took, I suspect it may have been a young grizzly.

I've had literally dozens of bear encounters (mostly black bears) over the years while mapping, running, orienteering or camping and rarely felt at all threatened. However, carrying pepper spray does give me an additional feeling of security as I'm told it is very effective, though you may have to spray it down a bears throat. I don't always use bells, except while mapping, but you get used to the sound and completely forget about it. So much so, that I walked into the Super Save at Savona once after a day of mapping. The girl behind the counter gave ma a funny look and asked "Why are you jingling?"
May 12, 2014 7:08 PM # 
"In the event of a grizzly attack though, play dead by lying spread eagle and face down, to make it more difficult for the bear to roll you over."

I diasagree. People like to have pat ideas like -- if it's a black bear you run; if it's a grizzly you play dead. My point is - in some cases playing dead might be the best approach, in others (such as the case described below) not so much. Not that it is necessarily easy to figure out, but the best response all depends on WHY the bear is approaching, or interested in you; regardless of species.
May 12, 2014 7:13 PM # 
Yeah, I agree that WHY is the key thing. A bear probably doesn't want to eat you. If it does, then it will eat you, but if it doesn't, then it has some other motivation (like feeling cornered), and if you can eliminate that, it may go away. But if it's a big cat, then it probably does want to eat you, and you need to not be the kind of thing that it wants to eat (a terrified deer).
May 13, 2014 1:49 AM # 
Would bear spray work on a mountain lion / cougar?
May 13, 2014 4:09 AM # 
I expect it would, the difference being it's less likely you would have a chance to use it. I'm sure I've encountered cougars without my knowledge, as they are in our area, but I've never seen one other than once from the car and, occasionally I've seen tracks in the snow.

@upnorthguy We agree. Every case is different, and I should have been more specific. BTW it wasn't my intention to link to BC websites after you had posted the Yukon site. I'm a slow at typing, and hadn't yet seen your post.
May 13, 2014 7:28 AM # 
The human-centric tone of this thread is rather insensitive in this day and age. We're in their habitat after all. Have been thinking about reduced sightings of particularly thylarctos plummetus, log have you heard whether the budget cuts are going to affect conservation?
May 13, 2014 8:52 AM # 
Hi Gruver! Budget talk on Radio National this morning.

Am thinking of training a plummetus to drop on Tony's head the next time he takes a bike ride.
May 13, 2014 9:18 PM # 
Mark Trail comic strip still runs in local paper. In past 2 weeks, after his jeep had a flat and he fell and broke his arm, a black bear treed him for a couple days. When Mark finally came down, lurking black bear was still around. Mark is trying to outrun it. Fortunately, black bear has a bad foot from a trap. Unfortunately, Mark just took two comic-strip days to trip over a root (Day 1) and fall (Day 2). He really should have known to wear bells, carry bear spray, and have an air-horn.

I'm rooting for the bear but such hope has never worked before.
May 13, 2014 11:40 PM # 
That would be an awesome way to end the strip.
May 14, 2014 12:39 AM # 
I carry it on a belt and put it on my back when I am training in the forest. It works well. Micheal does the same. It doesn't really impede running speed and isn't too annoying. Never really use to carry it before but after seeing 9 1/2 inch bear tracks earlier this spring at Bow Valley I thought it would be a good idea to carry some with me for trainings!
May 14, 2014 2:35 AM # 
Hey D-MAN, could we get a picture of that? It sounds pretty good.
May 15, 2014 9:46 PM # 
A Calgary entrepreneur has come up with the Bear Cozy, a water-bottle-sized container for your bear spray canister. I'm going to get one & try it out

May 15, 2014 10:56 PM # 
Mark Trail? I haven't seen or heard of him since I was a kid. He must be about 140 now. No wonder it takes him two days to fall. It probably takes him a week to get up and once he is up he forgets why he is there.
Is Joe Palooka still around down there, too. How about Major Hoople?
May 15, 2014 11:00 PM # 
Palooka ended in 1984, as did Hoople. The Katzenjammer Kids lives on.
May 15, 2014 11:55 PM # 
The resident grizzly is attacking the encroaching black bear, ignoring Mark Trail for some reason (even though he's shirtless and looks like good eating to me).
May 16, 2014 12:12 AM # 
May 16, 2014 1:45 AM # 
Don't understand why you would wait to put the spray on. Why not apply it before you start?
May 16, 2014 5:01 AM # 
We had 7 different bears on our O course last night! Including 2 brand new cubs.
No incidents.
May 16, 2014 12:20 PM # 
May 16, 2014 3:14 PM # 
Perhaps the Nordic Center would consider allowing
runners to carry breakfast cereal instead.
May 16, 2014 3:44 PM # 
No. This much I do know: Porridge just encourages them.
May 16, 2014 6:29 PM # 
I've seen bears a few times, but usually when they've wanted to eat my lunch (literally).

Ricka's large yellow cooler still has bear claw marks in it from when a bear in the Smokey Mountains appreciated the fact that we'd just stocked up on groceries and broke into the truck to get the cooler.
May 16, 2014 7:09 PM # 
I was told by a ranger that bears have a very limited vocabulary, and can read only a few words -- "Coleman" and "Igloo" among them.
May 16, 2014 9:23 PM # 
yikes, my popup camper is a "Coleman". I guess we've only encountered unschooled bears so far, as they've always walked right past... so far...
May 17, 2014 5:47 AM # 
I guess my "Playmate" is safe...
May 23, 2014 1:36 AM # 
But if his 3rd word is "Playmate", beware!

For oldies, Prince Valiant has departed STL but is still seen in Milwaukee (along with Henry).
May 23, 2014 8:54 PM # 
If you look closely, I bet your "Playmate" still says Igloo somewhere on it, since they are the manufacturer.
May 23, 2014 9:58 PM # 
Indeed it does. but the bear would have to be wearing contacts or glasses to see it...
May 26, 2014 1:30 PM # 
Pepper spray story from Jasper; apparently it works.
May 26, 2014 5:08 PM # 
matzah ball:
I ran into a bear (almost literally) rounding a bend in a remote Oregon road. It had a little cub behind it. It shrieked in horror, and bounded back up an impossibly steep road cut. Btw, I also recoiled and retreated, then cautiously proceeded after a minute or two. No sign of them. From then on I made a lot of noise at all the sharp bends.
Jul 1, 2014 8:18 PM # 
I tried the "Bear Cozy" - see picture & link above.

The simple device wraps around a bear spray canister so that the entire package fits snuggly into a water bottle holder. I believe the intent is to carry it in a bike's water bottle cage, but it works perfectly well in a running belt that fits around your hips with a water bottle holder in the back.

Light, cheap, and fits snuggly. The only problem, as pointed out above, is that you can't carry a water bottle too which has been a bit of a problem for me as I test-run the COC2014 courses
Jul 1, 2014 8:20 PM # 
I have just found another bear spray canister holder device. This one is a waist-belt with a pocket custom-sized to hold a bear spray canister. This costs around $40. I will probably get one of these to test
Oct 20, 2014 9:19 PM # 
Not sure it would have made any difference how one carried one's bear spray in this case:
Oct 23, 2014 1:23 AM # 
Oct 24, 2014 4:21 PM # 
Biggins, time to create a noisy Bear Scare app!
Oct 24, 2014 11:21 PM # 
A bear in the house, a simply awful story. Seems like both above stories were on the same weekend on opposite sides of North America. Staying out of the woods is a non-workable moral to the story!
Oct 28, 2014 5:59 PM # 
Regarding that NJ attack, I suspect that it happened because the hikers didn't stay together and all ran -- thus behaving like prey. The bear chose one and chased him down.

Running is pretty much on all lists of "don'ts" when it comes to bear encounters...
Oct 28, 2014 11:14 PM # 
But don't confuse bear advice with mountain lion advice.
Dec 24, 2015 1:53 PM # 
Interesting development in this story; and note the discussion about when not to play dead.
Dec 29, 2015 4:07 PM # 
AZ, not as fancy as the bear cozy but you could just make your own Red Green style

You could also use a double water bottle belt something like this:
Jan 4, 2016 6:02 PM # 
I just put saddle bags on the bear. Doesn't everybody?

This discussion thread is closed.