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Old 04-29-06, 10:52 PM   #1
daavq
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bear mace - Yay or Nay?

I am leaving in a week for a cross Canada tour (yes I know it is a little early, I like the cold) and I am wondering whether or not to take bear mace. I plan on camping a lot and I have decided to not cook fish or meat, hoping that may avoid some problems. But now I am wondering if I should just buy the mace. Does anyone have any experience in this area or suggestions?
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Old 04-29-06, 11:02 PM   #2
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Wait to buy it until you get into Canada. If you get searched at the border and you have it they probably won't take it but it's considered some sort of weapon so you might.

I was charged by a bear in Alaska. They say not to run but it's almost impossible. The fact I had bear spray in my hand made it "easier" to do the right thing which was stand there, thinking "Oh my God this is going to hurt," and hope it was a bluff charge.

Cheers,
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PS: It was a bluff. No one got sprayed, eaten, and no pants were soiled.
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Old 04-29-06, 11:08 PM   #3
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Not a direct answer to your question, just my experience. I've only had two encounter with bears. The most recent, years ago: I was driving late at night in northern California, falling asleep at the wheel, and desperately trying to get to the nearest campground so I could sleep. I pulled into the first campground, pulled into the nearest campsitre, and scared off a black bear. It never came around and bothered me.

The other encounter was in southern Oregon. I was in whitewater school, camping on a river beach, and a bear had come around looking for food. There were tracks all around my sleeping bag, and other peoples bags, and around the kitchen area. We were camping with pros, so the bear didn't get our stuff, and moved upstream to the next campsite. It got onto one of the rafts, where the campers had foolishly stored their food, and tore up the raft and their food supply.

In my experience, black bears just aren't a problem. That's assuming that I'm not standing between a mother and her cubs, of course. They will try to get into food if you make it easy for them, but they're not dangerous unless cornered or protecting their cubs.

Then there are Grizzlies. From everything I've read about them, there is no way I would camp in grizzly country without a gun. And maybe mace. I'd prefer not to kill one, but sometimes they just don't give you many options. I'm not sure macing a Grizzly is the way to protect yourself, considering how fast and how powerful they are. It *may* be effective, I just don't know, and I wouldn't bet my life on it. A large caliber gun is the only thing I'd trust my life to in Grizzly country. Of course, if they're as quiet as that black bear that tiptoed around my sleeping bag, I'm screwed if I'm caught sleeping.
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Old 04-29-06, 11:57 PM   #4
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I've biked all over western Canada from Saskatchewan to Vancouver Island to the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Maybe a half-dozen trips. I was by myself most of the time. I had neither mace nor a gun. Lord knows, I sure couldn't have come into Canada with a handgun. I also do a lot of remote camping - i.e. just me in places far, far from anybody else. I feel safest when I am in areas where bear hunting is permitted since bears then have a fear of humans. Of course, that's no guarantee. I am religious about food. Never in my tent. Always hung high and 100 meters downwind from my campsite. If you are concerned, I think the more prudent course is to stick to developed campgrounds - especially in grizzly areas - the parks in the Rockies - eastern BC. Personally, if you are reasonable, I think your chances of getting hit by a city bus in Toronto are greater.
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Old 04-30-06, 12:20 AM   #5
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I think that generally, this is true. However, occasionally, a grizzly bear goes on a murder spree, for reasons that aren't understood. Those are the ones that make me feel like a gun is necessary.

I understand the problem with bringing guns into Canada, but from my own perspective, *if* I'm going into grizzly country-- something i've never done-- I need some kind of equalizer, because they are too big, too fast-- as fast as a horse, too smart, and sometimes, too predatory, to trust in anything else.


On the other hand, if everybody who went into bear country were armed, there'd probably be no bears left after a while. Probably better for the species if a lot of people don't put themselves into a position where they might have to defend themselves.

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Old 04-30-06, 01:47 AM   #6
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I say get some. It's cheap and it works.

I used to work in Yellowstone National Park, and I know of more than one person who it helped out.
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Old 04-30-06, 10:36 AM   #7
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Well I have some experience with bears while I was tree planting for several years and while working in Northern BC. But I am planning on stealth camping along the way across the country and I guess I was hoping the traffic may scare them away. I do like the idea of keeping the food away from camp in a tree. I think I will go to MEC and get some rope.
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Old 04-30-06, 01:26 PM   #8
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Daavq,

I too am doing a cross-canada ride in 25 days, and can empathize with your fear of encountering bears while camping. I plan on taking bear mace simply because it's cheap and better than nothing. Also, while travelling BC I plan on staying in established camp sites whenever possible. If not available, I'd probably try and persuade some locals to let me crash in their backyard or someplace nearby other humans. Once out of BC I think stealth camping in remote places in less a risk. However, I did read about a young woman that was mauled to death by a predatory black bear last year in a provincial park east of Lake Superior. I guess the best you can do is keep food as far from your tent as possible and strung from trees. Best of luck.

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Old 04-30-06, 02:11 PM   #9
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Oh. And I plan on carrying a large knife.
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Old 05-01-06, 09:31 AM   #10
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If it makes you feel better take it.

I generally carry it when backpacking or camping in bear country, but I have never had to use it. I have talked to people who have had to use it and it worked for them against a grizzly they had surprised.

Proper campsite protocol is very important as has been stressed here. Don't be too paranoid, bear incidents are relatively rare.
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Old 05-01-06, 09:56 AM   #11
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All good points in bear country for sure. I'd carry the bear spray, and I'd buy some of those "poppers" or "crackers" (not sure of their proper name its been awhile). I knew of stories where spray didnt work, and a few poppers finally scared the Griz off. Keep the knife handy, though if it comes time for you to use a knife on the bear in a fight, you may be in trouble....
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Old 05-01-06, 11:58 AM   #12
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Grizzly encounters are relatively rare. Of far more concern is the common Blackie that has lost its fear of humans because they are so plentiful and because we are encroaching with developments. Attacks by Blackies dwarf those by Grizzlies because of that reason. They are everywhere almost.

I've read that Grizzlies will sometimes snore like lumberjacks when they are napping. The Alaska Brownies at the local zoo don't make a sound when they move around their habitat - even on the river rock in there. Very disconcerting ability.

It's good that Blackies seem to 'talk' to themselves. You can hear them making a 'yukker-yukker' sound when they are eating tasty blackberries. I think they daydream a little because I surprised one a few years ago.

I was grazing on one side of a blackberry patch by a rail siding and I thought there were people on the other side talking quietly. I ducked through an opening to get over there and when I popped out I was within 10 ft of a medium sized black bear. I couldn't believe he didn't hear me til I was that close. He turned around and saw me and took off like a rocket - straight up a near vertical bank about thirty feet.

It happened so fast that I didn't even have time to think about the physical mechanics of retreat.

Mace for bears? Sure. Why not. A large knife? You won't even have enough time to slit your own throat if he closes with you. The fastest round-house-right by a professional boxer is pretty anemic compared to the speed and power of even a small 100lb bear.
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Old 05-01-06, 01:03 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcm
Mace for bears? Sure. Why not. A large knife? You won't even have enough time to slit your own throat if he closes with you. The fastest round-house-right by a professional boxer is pretty anemic compared to the speed and power of even a small 100lb bear.
Maybe so, but if it offers me some psychological comfort, I'll take one along.
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Old 05-01-06, 03:02 PM   #14
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Pepper spray is a good idea, and an even better idea is carrying 2 canisters because pepper spray can and occasionaly will jam. Another good option is home brewed pepper spray in a water bottle in a cage.

Skin Flute mentioned a large knife. Especially for hikers, a machete would be a good bear solution when guns are not an option. Bears have no armor plating, and a large knife or machete can swiftley stop a bear.

Something I should mention for those who don't know is that black bears tend to be afraid of humans. I have run into them many times, and they just look at me and run like their life depends on it.
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Old 05-01-06, 08:02 PM   #15
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Reality check:
In Canada pepper spray if carried in a pocket or other cover may be considered to be a 'concealed weapon'. Other charges may apply if you spray it at a human.

The best way to avoid contact with bears is to not go where bears go. Don't cook where you camp. Change clothes after you cook and avoid camping near sites that bears frequent such as campsites and near water.

That said, in bear country I carry pepper spray and a metal tent peg (sharpened) with me in my hammock. I've never needed either.
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Old 05-01-06, 10:39 PM   #16
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In Canada, you can only buy OC (oleoresin caspicum) spray, aka pepper spray, which is intended for bears. It's illegal to carry small concealable amounts intended for humans. It's also illegal to transport to Canada but not illegal to transport from Canada to the US.

There is a great organized ride called "PAGE" (Pedal Around the Glacier, Eh), the Kokenai Glacier that is, in the Nelson BC area. Two years ago I noticed a couple of riders who were carrying OC in their bottle cages. I thought that was a bit extreme and asked about it. I was told the black bears can be quite aggressive in that area and come down to the road often. The road goes from Creston to Crawford Bay and is fairly well travelled. I must say I was a but uneasy for the remainder of the ride. I now go to Nelson about every other week and have learned it's very common for bears to come down to the road. If you are by the Kokanee Glacier on Hwy 3A, they come down for the fish, and garbage, but mostly the fish and are common visitors to the provincial park which offers camping.

I biked across Canada 19 years ago, didn't carry it and didn't have a problem. I really doubt you will have problems w/ bears unless a person is careless and frying bacon in their tent. I usually carry it since I mostly worry about the two legged animals. It makes me sleep a little better.
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Old 05-02-06, 02:30 AM   #17
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"Skin Flute mentioned a large knife. Especially for hikers, a machete would be a good bear solution when guns are not an option. Bears have no armor plating, and a large knife or machete can swiftley stop a bear."

Allow me to re-iterate.
Even the fastest human cannot out strike a bear - even a small one of 100-150 lbs. Knife, machete, or other bladed weapon notwithstanding. You simply will not have the time to wield your weapon. Ever actually witness a cat fight? A real one - not just staring and growling. Bears are at least as fast as cats. Their speed and power is nothing short of explosive.

A blackie of 175lbs has a reach six inches longer than a typical 6' man. A 350lb blackie has about the same reach but is just fatter. Grizzlies have been known to charge a hunter after being shot thru the heart with a .338 Winchester Magnum and still cover 50-70 in about 6 seconds yards before expiring.

It's a good thing they fear humans, but they are losing that fear because they are seeing us so much more. And, we come with food. They know this.

Bringing a knife along in camp is not a bad idea, but don't count on it against a bear attack. The bear mace is as good a deterent as any non-lethal option. Just be aware of your surroundings and use common sense with your food. 99.999% of the time the bear will have already scouted your camp and moved off.
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Old 05-02-06, 08:22 AM   #18
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You believe what you want jcm, but I do fencing and martial arts, and I happen to think I could handle a black bear with one of my big combat knives. A conservation officer in Africa once killed a lion with a Swiss Army knife.

Something I forgot earlier is that another good option for hikers who come across small bears is a big stick, such as a heavy hardwood hiking staff. An expanding baton could also fend them off. I have seen footage of bear attacks, and I have never seen a black bear attack someone so fast that they couldn't have fought it off with a knife or club.
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Old 05-02-06, 08:53 AM   #19
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It might be possible to have some success with a knife against a small black bear, but against a brown bear your best bet is to cover your knife in bacon grease, throw it and hope he chases it. If you try to fight a brown bear with a knife, you will be killed.
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Old 05-02-06, 12:03 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Order
I would camp in grizzly country without a gun. And maybe mace.
I did a lot of backpacking in bear county. The popular conclusion is you'd 1: Need to carry a massive rifle to kill or even stop a grizzly and 2: You'd need to be make a kill shot on a moving target while scared sh**less.

Best to use smarts, make noise, don't cook in camp, and carry mace. If you do use a gun, they suggest filing off the front sightpost so it doesn't hurt as much when the bear shoves the gun up your @ss (bear country humor there).

Cheers,
Brian

PS: I totally misread your post. I thought you wrote "would NOT camp in grizzly..." But I'm so proud of my bear joke that I stole that I'm keeping it as-is.
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Old 05-02-06, 02:08 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnygofaster
I did a lot of backpacking in bear county. The popular conclusion is you'd 1: Need to carry a massive rifle to kill or even stop a grizzly and 2: You'd need to be make a kill shot on a moving target while scared sh**less.

A friend of mine was out west in the 60's and he killed a large charging pissed bear (black or brown I don't know) with a Ruger MK1 semi automatic .22. A shot between the eyes with a .22 rimfire will kill any animal in north, south, or central America, and most of them on the other continents. Believe it or not, even elephants have been killed with .22's, but that is a much trickier matter.
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Old 05-02-06, 02:31 PM   #22
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idiocy

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!

That is the most ridiculous freaking thing I have ever heard.

The reason professional guides in Alaska carry something like a 12 gauge shotgun and alternate slugs with shot shells or a 45/70 bush rifle with Buffalo Bore hardened rounds is because martial arts experts like you can stop a brown bear with a knife or a machete.

Please keep to subjects you know something about.
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Old 05-02-06, 02:37 PM   #23
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I better put on my mucking boots it is getting deep in here
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Old 05-02-06, 02:53 PM   #24
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I never go into bear country without these essentials. Fortunately, I have many skills.
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Old 05-02-06, 03:07 PM   #25
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Rather than taking Rommel's Army with you, just take a little caution and prudence.
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