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Bear spray on the Northern Tier

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Bear spray on the Northern Tier

Old 05-21-10, 06:40 PM
  #1  
rocketshipready
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Bear spray on the Northern Tier

The first leg of my upcoming tour will be on the ACA Northern Tier route, from the start (well, Seattle, but close enough) to just outside Glacier NP, where we will ride south and pick up the Trans Am in Missoula. We'll be mostly staying at National Forest campgrounds along the way, and it seems most provide bear vaults. I'm wondering, though, would it be a good idea to pack some bear spray? I've no experience with that part of the country, and would definitely like to be prepared for any potential incidents. Thanks!
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Old 05-21-10, 08:16 PM
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Lots of black bears in the Cascades. When I pulled into the otherwise deserted Canyon Creek Campground (section 1, panel 11) there were three bears licking the picnic tables. They took off, but it was reassuring to have some defense if they came back. But I'd rather save my bear spray for the grizzlys in Glacier NP.

Do you absolutely have to have bear spray? Probably not. But if you're planing to be in bear country in the future, you might as well take the hit now. Also works on dogs. There will be plenty of dogs to spray in Kentucky!
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Old 05-21-10, 09:12 PM
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I lived, biked, hiked and bike toured in NW Montana for several years while residing in an isolated log cabin adjacent to the Cabinet Wilderness filled with Grizzlies. I have never found a need to carry bear spray. I made the same choice when I rode the Divide Ride or kayak toured Glacier Bay NP in Alaska for one month. The enormous Alaskan Brown Bears walked right through camp every night but found nothing of interest. A clean camp and proper food storage will do more to ensure your safety than any bear spray. Cook away from your sleeping area, remove clothes used while cooking from the tent area and leave nothing with a scent in or near your tent-nothing!

The hype surrounding bear spray is a good business model for the companies selling a solution to our imagined fears. It only creates a false sense of security for most users. The spray seems to substitute for learning good camping procedures- a dangerous short cut in our impatient world. Banff and Jasper N.Park ranger friends tell tales of Grizzlies undeterred by the spray even when used properly in park research tests.

Last edited by arctos; 05-21-10 at 09:13 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 05-21-10, 09:20 PM
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Another option that you could think about would be one of those small marine air horns.

Back in '06, I cycled from Vancouver to Calgary and back, and that was my only protection so to speak. I only saw one bear, and it was a small black bear. Once it saw me, it go the hell out of there.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - proper food handling can go a long way.
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Old 05-21-10, 09:40 PM
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Don't want to derail the thread but there is something I've always wondered and it's on the same topic, bears. I know all about bear safety, etc. Not to sleep in your cooking clothes, how far away to store scented items and to cook, etc. But what about our own body scents? I know for a woman this is especially important when on their monthly cycle. What about the smell of our sweat, our soaps, our breath from our toothpaste? Apparently one of the smells bears love the most is mint.
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Old 05-22-10, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by a1rabbit View Post
Don't want to derail the thread but there is something I've always wondered and it's on the same topic, bears. I know all about bear safety, etc. Not to sleep in your cooking clothes, how far away to store scented items and to cook, etc. But what about our own body scents? I know for a woman this is especially important when on their monthly cycle. What about the smell of our sweat, our soaps, our breath from our toothpaste? Apparently one of the smells bears love the most is mint.
This has always given me pause too, but not so much that I don't do all the things mentioned by Arctos above. The best thing about bear spray is that it gives you (false?) confidence not to run in panic away from a bear which might trigger a chase response. Using spray is not the only answer and should in no way (like wearing a helmet) give you a sense of invulnerability.

Also, I found my air horn tried on numerous black bears on the Cassiar completely useless.

BTW, a woman is in no more danger than a man. However, the bear takes his/her chances.
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Old 05-22-10, 07:20 AM
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When I did the northern tier I didn't bring bear spray along. If I did bring it it would have been more for a dog repellent than anything. I had zero problems with dogs on the entire route. I used the lockers in the park and that was good enough for my needs.
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Old 05-22-10, 07:37 AM
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Personally I have not bothered and don't plan to in the future. It is an extra half pound to carry and $30-50 out of your wallet. Just use good sense about camping practices and don't worry. Bear attacks are way down on the list of things that might kill you. Lightning, bee stings, and automobiles are all statistically far more likely to kill you.
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Old 05-22-10, 07:56 AM
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I've always wondered how useful bear spray would be.
Don't you think that putting a wig on a bear -
would be way more dangerous than spraying it?
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Old 05-22-10, 09:34 AM
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I won't belittle your fear because I've felt the same. In Clark Fork, Idaho a local asked if I was carrying protection. After my double-take he said he was talking about something like a 38. That day I passed a roadside attraction sign that talked about grizzlies in the area. Great! My fears started mounting and I thought about a motel. I found a campground on a lake. There were no bear boxes (and trash everywhere.) I kept a clean campsite and ten, and hung my pannier with food in a tree away from my tent. No problem. In Glacier I kept a clean campsite and tent and used the bear boxes. No problem. I've camped dozens of times in bear country with never a problem (though plenty of bear sightings and "hearings" in the night. I'll probably continue to worry, but I'll still camp around bears.
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Old 05-23-10, 07:54 AM
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I have canoed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota every year for about 25 years. No grizzlies but black bear are common. The forest service recommends hanging food from a tree at night. I use an air tight dry bag for that purpose as it offers less food scent to attract bear. Hang it high enough that you can't reach it with your hand and far enough away from a tree trunk that a small bear that can climb trees can't reach to the side and grab the pack. I use a couple lines and pulleys for that but most just use one line over a high branch.

In areas with moose like northern Minnesota, I am more concerned about moose than black bear. If you approach a moose, they might think they are being challenged.
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Old 05-23-10, 09:36 AM
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A very good response, "arctos", I have cycled, backpacked, and canoed throughout western British Columbia, the Yukon, and southern Alaska without any "bear" problems by practicing your comments. I have carried bear spray while packing in the mountians of south-western British Columbia because it is common to surprise a bear in the dense bush. Having bells on your pack is not adequate sometimes because of the loud noise rushing streams make. Also, I have been part of a group that has tested bear spray, and have found that it's range is quite short, it is very difficult to grab, pull off the safety pin, and then accurately shoot, if a bear is coming toward you in a hurry. The most dangerous bears are the predatory ones, and they most often come at you in a stalk, or trot, which gives you time to use your spray.
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Old 05-23-10, 11:09 PM
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Thanks for all the info everyone. Proper camp maintenance was definitely going to be a priority, but I'll be double sure to check everything
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Old 05-24-10, 09:47 PM
  #14  
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spray

Ive ridden the northern tier 4 times never carried spray. Like everyone has already said keeping a clean camp is a must. I only kept food and tooth paste soap etc in one pannier never brought it in the tent Hung this food bag between 2 trees away from the tent I even did this for raccoons which gave me more trouble then I care to remember. A couple nights I knew I was in prime Griz country it was a little erie but in the morning the sun came up and I rode on to another day.
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Old 05-25-10, 03:14 PM
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Statistically, I doubt the, "I camped a dozen times in bear country, no problem" responses are all that surprising. I own some bear country, in 50 years yet to see one. Never seen one in my province in 50 years of outdoor activities. Seen lots in the west though. Just recently someone was mauled a little north of here (Toronto), and last year they locked down our urban school because one was heading south on the adjacent road, must have wanted a swim. So one leaves home and buys the bear spray when it is just as likely to happen locally, if rarely.

https://www.thesudburystar.com/Articl...aspx?e=2585698

It's like the helmet thing in another way. You probably have a long wait until your number comes up. The issue is whether you like being prepared or prefer floating along on the hope it never happens. Not saying one is better than the other, personal preference. There are people who probably think carrying precautions will manifest a bear. There are people carrying precautions and hoping they get to use them. Just depends on your personal agenda. I fall into the "I bought bear spray but forgot it" camp.
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Old 05-25-10, 04:19 PM
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Bears don't like ammonia, camphor, mothballs and Lysol smells So maybe put some camphor or mothballs in your bags and tent?

I was talked into buying a bear container by some people who hike and camp in Adirondacks (lots of black bears apparently in the northern parts) but with less than a week left from the start of my tour, I'm having second thoughts. This thing is 5lbs in itself and cumbersome to carry on a bike.

But during my practice overnight rides I used it and both times I found it moved around the camp at night, most likely by raccoons. Many people claim that hanging bags is difficult or plain impossible in some situations and often ineffective as smaller critters can get to them and have all night to chew through the fabric to get to your food.

So, I'm a bit confused.

Edit: Oh, I forgot that the bear containers are actually required in the High Peaks area campgrounds.

Last edited by AdamDZ; 05-25-10 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 05-26-10, 07:57 AM
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The only times I have had close encounters with Black bears and Grizzly bears, was while backpacking through the backcountry of Yellowstone. We mostly encountered bears early in the morning.

The Black bear we saw was huge but, he didn't even acknowlege us....just kept turning over logs looking for breakfast.

We stumbled upon a mother grizzly and 2 cubs at one point but, annnounced our presence, so as not to startle her, and she stood up (man she was big!!!) and took off with her cubs.

We also, were charged by a young male Grizzly at one point. He came running up the trail we were on and skidded to a stop 10 feet in front of me, huffing and grunting the whole time.... it happened so fast, I didn't even have time to react. Once he saw my husband step from behind me, he took off running the other way. We assume we surprised him or he was eating when we walked up on him.

We weren't carrying any bear spray but, ended up buying some after the bear charge but never used it.

I wouldn't bother with the spray, unless you want it for peace of mind. Like previous posters said...practice safe camping and you should be fine.
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Old 05-26-10, 04:01 PM
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May 26, 2010

LEGAL DANGERS IN CONFRONTING A GRIZZLY BEAR


Jackson Hole News, WY - A jury last week found 41-year-old Stephen Westmoreland guilty of a misdemeanor charge of illegally taking a grizzly bear stemming from an incident in September when he shot a bear in Ditch Creek. He claimed self-defense in a trial that hinged on the behavior of the bear, among other things.

Mark Bruscino, bear management program supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, testified at the trial about how bears act before they attack a person and told jurors that most often bruins will retreat during an encounter.

"This whole thing adds up to that people need to make sure they are in a self-defense situation," Bruscino said in an interview after the trial. "You can’t kill wildlife based on an undemonstrated fear of an unrealistic threat."

Westmoreland shot the animal at 40 yards after he encountered it feeding on a moose carcass. The animal died on the other side of the moose from Westmoreland and without charging.

In their verdict, jurors seemed to acknowledge that Westmoreland had no malicious intent when he killed the animal. But they were convinced he was not defending himself from a real threat.

"Under the circumstances, we feel the defendant acted out of fear instead of self-defense," the verdict said.

The case shows we need to understand the best ways to avoid conflicts with and defend ourselves from grizzly bears," Weichman said. "We need to understand when we’re in danger and when we’re not. What we need to do, especially if we’re carrying firearms, is understand grizzly bears if we’re in grizzly country."

"Just killing a grizzly bear because it scares you is not going to fly," he said. "That’s the message of this case."

During the trial, Bruscino described a continuum of bear behavior. A grizzly that encounters a human will flee 99 percent of the time, he said. After that, bear behavior might include disinterest in a human, curiosity followed by a retreat, stress behaviors such as excessive salivation and panting, bluff behavior such as false charges and finally an attack.

[Defense counsel] DeFazio said hunters, hikers and other backcountry users are not going to engage in "some sort of scientific calculation based on their observations" before deciding whether to pull the trigger.
Some conflicting opinions remain about what certain signs mean, he said.

"Whether or not upright ears indicates aggressive behavior is still in question, and whether or not to fire a warning shot seems to still be in question within the Game and Fish Department - as was exhibited within the trial," he said.
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Old 05-26-10, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
Bears don't like ammonia, camphor, mothballs and Lysol smells So maybe put some camphor or mothballs in your bags and tent?
So maybe there is a business opportunity into renting old grandmas as touring companions?
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Old 05-26-10, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by JeanM View Post
So maybe there is a business opportunity into renting old grandmas as touring companions?


That reminds me of a "mother in law joke".

A group was hiking in the woods: two couples with kids and their mothers. One mother-in-law was suddenly attacked by a bear. One guy asks another:

- OMG, should we help???
- Nah, the bear asked for it, let him defend himself...
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