bear spray

“…I heard a roar and turned to see the bear flowing over some downed logs…”

Hi Mark, We met at the International Bear Conference in Gatlinburg, TN several years ago. You took time to demonstrate to me your spray and what to look for in a good pepper spray. Since that time, I’ve only carried UDAP, but never had reason to use it as defense against a bear until September of last year. (I have used it successfully against two feral Rottweillers that attacked a mountain biker in Pisgah National Forest here in North Carolina.)

While hiking back out to the trailhead after several days in the backcountry near the Shoshone Lake geyser basin back in mid-September, I was charged by a large bear spraydark Grizzly near campsite 8R3. I had spotted some scat only a few minutes before the encounter but because there was so little, and because of the time of year, I figured that it was a black bear. The bear charged just after I passed the turnoff to the campsite. I heard a roar and turned to see the bear flowing over some downed logs only a few yards away. I threw my arms up and yelled at the bear, causing it to stop just as it hit the path about 8 feet or so away from me. For about 30 or 40 seconds the two of us had what amounted to a roaring contest.

The griz was bouncing stiff-legged as it circled, trying to get behind me. As soon as I thought it as safe to lower my arms, I went for the UDAP spray that I carried, ready to fire, on my pack belt. As I reached for it, the bear jumped in towards me. I fired nearly straight down at its head as it did, with it coming close enough to slobber on my right leg. I only sprayed a short burst, hat may be why the bear retreated about 10 feet, but continued to roar (growl loudly?) and bounce up and down. I then got the spray out of the holster and fired a longer blast, really nailing the griz with the stuff. I literally painted its head with the spray. It immediately retreated, rubbing its head against the ground and weeds as it went. It didn’t run away – instead, it would move a few feet, bawling and rubbing its face against the ground, and then turn to face me again.

When it was about 50 feet away, I remembered the camera hanging around my neck and got a couple of quick blurred shots of the Griz as it faded into the timber, still growling loudly and looking back. As soon as it was out of sight, I booked on down the trail. I made the mistake of rubbing my forehead with the back of my hand right after the encounter and smeared residue liberally into one eye. The pain was incredible, but considering what the alternative might have been, was quite bearable (pardon the pun…) When I got back to the Grant Village backcountry office, I filed a report with bear management and learned that what was evidently the same bear had mauled two hikers at the same location the morning before I had my encounter.
Dave Landreth

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