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For Bear's Eyes, Not Yours

Article contributed by: Eruk's Wilderness

Pepper spray in small, fire extinguisher type cannisters is widely touted as non-lethal protection against the slight chance of a bear attack. It has been useful in curbing interest from curious bears, and driven off a few during a mauling. However, there have been no reports of it actually stopping a serious charge. One very large threat, is not from bears but from the spray cannister. Should it burst inside a small plane, everyone onboard would be incapacitated, including the pilot. For this reason they are now forbidden on most passenger aircraft in much of Alaska and Canada. Spray cannisters are a good option, especially for travelers not well enough acquainted with firearms to carry one for protection. Firearms are allowed on nearly any aircraft (in a case) so are still the obvious choice for fly-in destinations. Best is short-barrel pump action 12 gauge shotgun shooting ounce and a quarter slugs. If you don't know safety and how to shoot, you and your party are in much more danger from the gun than the bear, though. Be well versed in bruin etiquette and minimizing attactive odors when travelling in bear country. And of course, hiring a local guide is probably the best insurance for a worry- free vacation.

You can print the following page in side bar or leave out. These guidelines are distributed by many government agencies. Eruk's Bear Country Etiquette:

1. Be always alert. Beware of walking through brush or places with limited visibility range.

2. When you see a bear, there is slight danger at the "Distance of Comfort" for a bear: over 50 yards. If it is approaching, make sure it sees you, and stand abreast to show party size. Raise hands and yell. Circle to upwind position. Bear can't identify by sight as well as scent.

3. If bear is encountered at close range, slowly raise arms, talk in loud voice, move slowly away toward clearing. Keep bear in sight. Keep backing away if it continues approach. Looking to the side is submissive gesture and might appease a dominant bear. Stand your ground but yell if it is coming fast. Throw pack or other article toward it. Don't fall and play dead until it is closer than 10 steps. Bears often halt or veer from what appears to be a charge at just a few steps away. If it is a black bear, fight back; don't play dead.

4. Place food out of boat and away from tents at night.

5. Protection: Pepper spray cannisters are effective at close range in many cases. They are forbidden on most passenger flights, though. Don't smuggle it on with your luggage. A burst cannister has caused at least one plane crash. Many carry firearms. Best choice is short-barrel pump action 12 gauge shotgun shooting ounce and a quarter slugs. If you don't know safety and how to shoot, you and your party are in much more danger from the gun than the bear.

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