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Bear Pepper Spray 

Tech Update Editor: Helen Johnson 

Please fill in our Reader Request Form located at the bottom for more information on these products.

Everyone at work or play in bear habitat should carry a can of bear pepper spray. That's the position of the Center for Wildlife Information in the United States, which points out that the use of bear pepper spray is not a substitute for following proper bear avoidance. Although the centre does not promote or endorse any particular commercial product, it does recommend use of the spray in addition to bear avoidance safety techniques. 

No deterrent is 100 per cent effective, the centre says, but compared to firearms and other methods, bear pepper spray has demonstrated the most success in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved. The proper use of bear pepper spray will reduce the number of black and grizzly bears killed in self-defense, reduce human injuries caused by bears and help promote the recovery and survival of black and grizzly bear populations, the centre says. 

Bear pepper sprays contain active ingredients of capsaicin and related capsaicinoids and work by affecting the mucous membranes, eyes and respiratory system of the attacking bear, causing temporary severe eye irritation, shortness of breath, choking and gagging. The American Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), in conjunction with the Center for Wildlife Information, has set out the following guidelines for bear pepper sprays. Each canister should:

  • be clearly labelled "for deterring attacks by bears" 
  • contain capsaicin and related capsaicinoids in concentrations of between one and two per cent. In Canada, these concentrations must be between 0.75 and one per cent 
  • contain at least 225 grams or 7.9 ounces net weight o be derived from Oleoresin of Capsicum (OC) 
  • release deterrent in a shot-gun spray pattern 
  • deliver a minimum spray reach of 25 feet provide a spray lasting at least six seconds 
  • display an EPA registration number or, in Canada, a Pest Control Product (PCP) number 

In Canada, the source of supply must be confirmed and canister trigger mechanisms must be shown to be effective and acceptable before a company can be given a Pest Control Products number by Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Bear pepper spray should be used as a deterrent only on an aggressive or attacking bear. It is only effective when used as an airborne deterrent sprayed as a cloud at an aggressive animal. Bear pepper spray is not a repellent-it cannot be used to keep a bear away from an area, for example-and should not be applied to people, tents, packs or other equipment or to the surrounding area. 

Spray should be carried in a quickly accessible location, such as in a hip or chest holster. In a tent, keep bear pepper spray readily available next to a flashlight. A can should also be kept in the cooking area. Spray should be tested once a year, but not in or near a camping area. Be sure to check the expiration date on a can of bear pepper spray. The Center for Wildlife Information recommends cans be checked or replaced at least every two or three years. Almost any aerosol spray canister can have leakage problems depending on how it is handled and where and at what temperature it is stored. 

It is important to realize that the surrounding air temperature affects the spraying distance of pepper spray. In warmer temperatures, the distances can be greater. In colder temperatures, the spray distance can be greatly reduced. Wind velocity and direction are other factors that affect spraying distance and must be taken into consideration. When using bear pepper spray, remove the safety clip and aim slightly down and towards the approaching bear. Adjust for a crosswind, if necessary. Spray a brief shot when the bear is about 50 feet away. Spray again if the bear continues to approach. 

Once the animal has retreated or is busy cleaning itself, leave the area as quickly as possible without running and go to an immediate area of safety, such as a car, tree or building. Do not chase or pursue the animal. If the canister is too small or has an insufficient spraying distance, most of the spray may be used up in the first blast. Having a sufficient amount of spray is important when more than one or two blasts are necessary, such as on windy, rainy or cold days or when encountering a highly protective mother bear or a bear with a fresh kill. 

Extra spray is also recommended on long hikes or in an outdoor working environment where more than one bear may be encountered. Although no formal studies have been done on the use of bear pepper spray as a deterrent on other wild animals, there have been successful field trials of its use on some species of other aggressive or attacking wild animals. Always check label information to ensure that the bear pepper spray you purchase meets the minimum guidelines as detailed above. 

Counter Assault 
Specifically designed to meet all of the IGBC guidelines for bear pepper spray, Counter Assault Bear Deterrent sprays to a distance of more than 30 feet with a duration of more than seven seconds, the company says. Available in a 230-gram size, the product needs no shaking and is packaged either with or without a nylon holster. The holster can also be purchased separately. It also has a glow-in-the-dark safety clip. The main ingredient is an OC derivative that affects the upper respiratory system, triggering involuntary eye closure and intense burning. The product contains 1.73 per cent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The formula dispersal system creates an atomized blast that produces a slowly dispersing pepper cloud. Counter Assault's manufacturers say it is the only EPA-registered product that meets or exceeds all IGBC guidelines. The company has been manufacturing bear pepper spray for 15 years and has received the Grizzly Bear Stewardship award for its contribution to the research and development of bear pepper spray. Circle Reader Service Card #450

ChemArmor/Bear Pause 
Although no longer EPA certified in the US, Bear Pause is registered for use in Canada. With a capsaicin and related capsaicinoids content of 0.98 per cent, the spray is available in a 225-gram can, has a spray range of up to 25 feet and a total spray time of seven seconds in a shotgun fogger blast dispersal formation, the company says. The cans come with a durable holster that allows for quick draw, firing from the holster and attachment to hip, chest and backpack. A safety clip helps prevent accidental discharge. The company says its product contains no environmentally harmful or poisonous compounds and is effective in sub-zero temperatures. A glow-in-the-dark safety clip allows quick access during twilight hours. Circle Reader Service Card #451

Integral Designs/Bear Scare 
Bear Scare is available in three sizes and is distributed in Canada by Integral Designs. The 225-gram canister has a spray time of four to five seconds, while the 260-gram can has a spray time of six to seven seconds. The 400-gram canister's spray time is eight to 10 seconds. The company claims all sizes of its product spray to a distance of between 30 and 40 feet. The range is reduced by about 10 feet at zero degrees C, the company says. The capsaicin and related capsaicinoids content is 0.75 per cent and the spray pattern forms a spreading cloud of between seven and 20 feet. The company says spray time will increase with multiple short bursts and the propellant will not freeze. It recommends a short-burst test firing at the start of every season and replacing the product after three seasons or when the net weight of a canister drops below 75 per cent of its initial weight, whichever comes first. An adjustable holster is available separately. Circle Reader Service Card #452

Earth Management 
Earth Management carries two brands of pepper spray for the Canadian market: Bear Pause and Bear Scare. Both defensive sprays are based on OC derivatives. Bear Scare contains 0.75 per cent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, while Bear Pause contains 0.98 per cent of the active ingredients. Both products can be used to help stop or prevent attacks by wild animals, the company says. The container head includes a tested delivery system with a safe and easy-to-use safety release trigger. The safety clip on the handle guards against accidental discharge, while a neoprene holster allows for quick access. With extra straps, the holster can be converted for attachment to a bicycle or other equipment. Earth Management products come in three sizes: a 225-gram can with a spray of four to five seconds in duration to a maximum of about 23 feet; a 260-gram canister with six to seven seconds of spray to a maximum reach of about 23 feet; and a 400-gram canister with eight to 10 second of spray to a maximum range of about 25 feet. Circle Reader Service Card #453

UDAP Industries 
UDAP Pepper Power, from UDAP Industries, contains two per cent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids and is available in both a 225-gram and 260-gram size. It has a maximum range of up to 30 feet, the company says, noting that maximum ranges reflect spraying in windless conditions. Spray duration for the large canister is 5.4 seconds at 32 degrees C. The highly visible, nonflammable spray disperses in a shotgun blast pattern. Several holsters are available for this product, including a chest harness and a Grizzly Grip for use on ski poles and hiking sticks. It has a glow-in-the-dark safety clip. Pepper Power is registered for use in both Canada and the US. Circle Reader Service Card #454

BodyGuard Canada LLC/BearGuard 
BearGuard bear deterrent product can spray up to a maximum distance of 30 feet, the company says. The non-flammable spray comes in three sizes: a 225-gram canister, a 260-gram can and a 400-gram size. The standard can dispenses its blast of two per cent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids in less than five seconds. BearGuard's triggering mechanism is made of stronger, fiberglass-reinforced material and each can is quality control tested for leakage to 54 degrees C. It has a glow-in-the-dark safety clip. The company's products are approved for sale in both the US and Canada. Circle Reader Service Card #455 

McNeil River Enterprises/Guard Alaska
Manufactured by McNeil River Enterprises Inc, Guard Alaska is available in a 260-gram canister and contains 1.34 per cent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, the company says. The Canadian formulation is guaranteed to contain 0.75 per cent, the minimum required for a Canadian PCP number. The company says both its US and Canadian products meet EPA and Health Canada specifications. It says the canisters spray a distance of between 15 to 20 feet, for a duration of nine seconds, in a shotgun blast fogger pattern with the spray cloud having a five-foot diameter at the face of the spray. Circle Reader Service Card #456 More Information? Action Card 423


For more information on the above products, please fill in the contact information and check off the boxes that apply.   When finished, please click on the Submit Form Button.

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Counter Assault  #450
ChemArmor/Bear Pause #451
Integral Designs/Bear Scare #452
Earth Management #453
UDAP Industries #454
BodyGuard Canada LLC/BearGuard #455
McNeil River Enterprises/Guard Alaska #456


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