Bear spray vs. Bullets
Research on the effectiveness of Bear Spray vs. a Firearm in a Bear Encounter
A study on the efficacy of bear deterrent spray was conducted in Alaska. 83 cases involving the use of bear spray in Alaska between 1985 and 2006 were analyzed. Results showed that in over 90% of close-range encounters with black and brown bears, spray stopped the bear’s undesirable behavior.
For self defense against grizzly bears, the answer isn't as obvious. Many are surprised when they find that, despite using their firearm against a charging bear, they were attacked and badly hurt.
Although every bear encounter is different, evidence suggests that shooting a bear can escalate the attack, while encounters where firearms are not used are less likely to result in injury or death of the human or the bear.
Questions that come to mind: Firearms can kill a bear but can it quickly enough? Can a shooter be accurate in a high pressure situation where you have seconds to respond? Do you really want to kill a bear when you don't need to?
Law enforcement agents for the Fish and Wildlife Service have investigated human-bear encounters since 1992 and found that persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.
Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used.
Awareness of bears and understanding bear behaviors is essential to avoid danger. Is the bear defensive? bluff charging? or predatory?
Get educated and practice using bear spray before you head out to enjoy the great outdoors.