The grizzly bear is one of North America’s most feared and respected animals. The world record grizzly was recorded at an astonishing 14 feet tall and 1600 pounds! When stepping out into the thick of the wilderness it is always best to be prepared for anything, grizzly attacks are no exception.
General Misconceptions about Bear Mace
Just to clarify bear mace isn’t the same as regular pepper spray it is much stronger. Regular sprays are designed to incapacitate humans whereas bear mace was specifically developed to repel an enraged bear. If you are carrying regular mace with the impression it will stop a charging bear you are walking around the woods with a sense of false security. Always check your spray to ensure it is written “used to deter bear attacks”.
One misconception I find quite comical is when people figure they can spray bear mace on their cooler or tent to keep bears away. This will not work so don’t try it!
I had a friend tell me she heard bear mace is not effective – this is simply not true. In studies bear spray has been shown to work 99.9% of the time. She then went on to tell me that a handgun or rifle is more effective protection than bear mace, this leads to my next topic..
The Best Protection: Bullets or Mace?
A handgun or rifle seems like the obvious choice but according to studies when a bear is shot there is a high chance it will become enraged and further its attack if not taken down with the first shot. In fact when relying on your firearm there are quite a few things that could go wrong. Your gun may jam and malfunction, you might miss your target or the bullets may strike the bear but merely injure and enrage it. Even if shot multiple times a large grizzly can still live long enough to continue its attack.
Bear mace on the other hand is proven to repel bears very effectively and has very low room for error. However you must make sure the mace comes in contact with the face of the animal, otherwise it won’t work. Most bear repellent has a range of 15-30 feet so you can spray from a safe distance. The government document above explains in detail why mace is more effective than firearms when dealing with grizzly bears.
Personally, I’d like to have a high caliber pistol or a shotgun with heavy slugs as well as bear mace. Bears can run extremely fast when they charge, and you won’t have more than a second or two before they’re on you. Any interaction you have with a charging grizzly is a high stakes game of life or death.
How Does Bear Repellent Work?
One of the reasons mace works so effectively is because bears have a sense of smell about 2000 times stronger than a human, when they catch a whiff of the mace it will send them running in a hurry!
The spray contains natural and chemical agents that cause inflammation of tissues such as eyes, nose and skin. When sprayed into the face of the animal the repellent will also be inhaled into its lungs causing inflammation of airway passages and shortness of breath. It will cause horrible irritation to the skin and blurred vision. Bear mace is a painful assault on the animals senses, once sprayed in the face it won’t be able to continue attacking. Luckily for bears and animal lovers alike mace is a non-lethal form of protection, after a long duration of time the effects will wear off.
The Proper Way to Use Mace
Simple. Take the can out of the holster, remove safety clip, point, spray. Most cans of bear mace will be able to continuously spray for 8 or more seconds; try to shoot out short 1-2 second bursts whenever possible. Also be sure to check the range of the spray beforehand so you know appromiately how far to shoot from.
Be aware bear mace will not spray as far in freezing cold weather. A decrease in temperature causes the pressure inside the can to decrease as well. To keep your spray functioning correctly keep it under your jacked when traveling in below zero weather.
What is the Strongest Brand of Bear Mace?
Unfortunately there is no way of telling which brand of bear mace is strongest or most effective, this is because there is no way of gauging the potency. Unlike regular pepper spray bear mace is not rated by capsacin. All I can recommend is Guard Alaska bear spray because I can attest to it’s effectiveness. From what I’ve heard it’s the only bear repellent registered with the EPA that is proven to be effective on all species of bears.
My Own Experience With Bear Mace
Back in 2006 I took a trip down to Alaska to visit friends and family. Much of my time was spent mountain climbing, sailing, camping, hiking and jogging on forest trails. A few days into the trip my sister asked me to bring her blueberry picking. We walked through the woods for a few minutes and found a great spot full of wild blueberries in a small clearing. Out of nowhere a large grizzly walked into the clearing, stood on his hind legs then strut over in our direction. Immediately I went into my bag for my bear repellent and sprayed him, the effects were immediate; the bear turned and ran back into the forest grunting and sneezing the whole way!
Let me tell you, a large grizzly looks intimidating enough when seen in pictures and video; when you see one up close and personal it practically turns you to stone! When standing on his back legs he must have been at least 10-12 feet tall, his paws were bigger than my head and his claws looked to be easily 3 1/2 inches long.
I was motivated to write this article as I’m sure many hikers and wilderness explorers don’t pack bear mace. Remember to stay prepared for anything and always be safe while enjoying your time in the great outdoors! Bear repellent – don’t be in bear country without it!