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Bear Advice

Chris from Alaska talks about recent bear encounters in National Parks, and steps you can take to mitigate that risk. I’ve been to Yellowstone, and there are few places I think you can go on earth to see more people doing more stupid things with wildlife. A lot of folks seem to come pretty close to treating some of our National Parks like petting zoos.

19 Responses to “Bear Advice”

  1. AllenF says:

    I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Two things we counted on annually was the rumble of Harley-Davidsons and the squishing of a tourist by a buffalo that decided it was tired of having its picture taken.

  2. Dave Y says:

    bear spray, or bear gas is illegal under 36cfr 1.4 & 2.4. Don’t carry it in National Parks.

  3. JohnW says:

    Five days ago at the Grand Canyon two bull elk crossed the RR tracks onto the lawn at the El Tovar Hotel, whereupon rangers in a pickup truck labelled “Wildlife Protection Unit” drove up. You got it; they were there to protect the elk from the rapidly growing crowd of tourists, some of whom wanted to have their picture taken petting the reindeer…

  4. aubrey says:

    “bear spray, or bear gas is illegal under 36cfr 1.4 & 2.4. Don’t carry it in National Parks.”

    That… doesn’t appear to be true.

  5. Dave Y says:

    here’s the cfr. if the link is garbled, this is for 36 cfr 1.4
    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c07cb0faa7670cc74c37fbe88a54b7cb&rgn=div8&view=text&node=36:1.0.1.1.1.0.1.4&idno=36


    “Weapon means a firearm, compressed gas or spring-powered pistol or rifle, bow and arrow, crossbow, blowgun, speargun, hand-thrown spear, slingshot,– irritant gas device–, explosive device, or any other implement designed to discharge missiles, and includes a weapon the possession of which is prohibited under the laws of the State in which the park area or portion thereof is located.”

    ‘irritant gas device’.

    ‘implement to discharge missiles’ probably covers tasers too, but who knows what a court would do.

    2.4 prohibits weapons:
    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c07cb0faa7670cc74c37fbe88a54b7cb&rgn=div8&view=text&node=36:1.0.1.1.2.0.1.4&idno=36

  6. aubrey says:

    Considering the parks tell you to bring bear spray:

    http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bearspraytranscript.htm

    I’m going to go ahead and assume your interpretation is flawed. Perhaps the bill that allows guns in parks also repealed what you are talking about?

  7. Sebastian says:

    That’s just a definition. Where is the prohibition?

  8. Matthew Carberry says:

    Why is it hard to accept that that bear spray may be in fact illegal under the CFR yet, rather than fix the law, a Federal agency is ignorant of, or simply decides for their own convenience to ignore, it?

    When did we start assuming most Feds actually know the laws that supposedly apply to their jobs, cause I missed that memo. =)

  9. chiefjaybob says:

    I wonder how much of this is due to the “Disney-fication” of the populace: you know, everybody thinks the animals– WILD animals– think like we humans do…..?

  10. Dave Y says:

    The prohibition on weapons is in 2.4, as a indicated above.

  11. Sebastian says:

    Here’s an explanation of the law surrounding bear spray:

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2009/04/national-park-superintendents-have-authority-allow-bear-spray

    Seems the park superintendents can override the regulation, and do for bear spray. The Coburn Amendment preempts the firearms regulations.

  12. Firehand says:

    Writer named Peter Capstick used to refer to it as Disney Syndrome for just that reason.

    AllenF, I used to live near the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge; there are herds of buffalo and longhorn there, and at least once a year some tourist gets gored, stomped or both because they ignore the “These are wild animals” signs and try to pet a calf, or get too damn close taking pictures.

  13. Dave Y says:

    I believe one of the co-petitioners tried to get a supt. to issue a permit for firearms; I did too, for pack animals.

    No joy.

    I admit that I have never heard of the (hugely anti-gun) NPT article, but in Lofton (4th circuit) they clarified that the Supt. could not overrule what was in the CFR. In other words, the CFR was not ‘discretionary’.

    This looks like one of those ‘shoestring = machinegun’ “opinion letters” that ATF is so fond of.

    That’s correct, Coburn only preempts firearms and ironically the CFR 2.4 posted is still the one promulgated by Bush 2, which Brady got an injunction against.

  14. Stretch says:

    Wife and I visited Yellowstone and every car entering rcvd. a BRIGHT ORANGE paper warning of bears and buffalo. Not an hour later we saw a family racing across a road to get a photo of “the cute buffalo calf.” Pity stupid doesn’t hurt.

  15. Sage Thrasher says:

    I’ve fired on polar bears with “seal bomb” rounds and #4 when they didn’t get the hint; never had to drop one, thankfully. They’d definitely eat you given 1/2 a chance. Grizzly’s and black bears do occasionally attack people, but far less than say, dogs, but they do provide a great excuse to buy an enormously over-sized handgun to weigh you down when you go hiking. : ) A couple of jingle bells on your back-pack probably works better overall, but doesn’t look nearly as cool.

    Usually just acting like you have half a brain is enough to stay safe (as others have noted above.) Most of the fatal bear attacks I’ve read about happened in a way that makes it doubtful a gun would have done much good, i.e. sleeping camper dragged from tent, etc., though the recent example of a hiker who killed an attacking grizzly in Alaska with a handgun does provide the excuse the rest of us need to spend way too much money on a BFG.

  16. David says:

    I also grew up in the Black Hills – loved hearing stories of the tourists doing stupid things around the buffalo herds in Custer State Park.

    Watched a guy try to feed some crackers to a big horned ram near Mt. Rushmore one day. Several of us yelled to warn him, he didn’t listen. He was not amused when the ram lowered its head and rammed him in the stomach. Fortunately for him the ram was satisfied with just one shot.

    Saw a lady one day with her arm in a cast – she tried to pet the deer she found eating outside her camper one night. Deer bolted when she reached for it, ended up kicking her in the humerous as it ran away.

    A park ranger at Yellowstone told me one day – if you have a run in with an animal in the park and a couple rangers show – you will then be outnumbered three to one.

    As a kid, I did a lot of running around in the hills. I always avoided the wildlife if possible, but had inadvertent minor run-ins with startled deer, bobcat, cattle, sheep, snakes, a pocupine, an owl, a skunk and a badger. The skunk scared me the most, the badger was the only one who reacted aggressively. Thank goodness there was a nearby aspen tree and I liked climbing trees. It seemed like an hour in that tree before the badger decided I wasn’t coming down and left.

    The family and I came upon a scrounging black bear in the Shenandoah Park a few years ago. We were content to slowing reverse directions and walk away. The bear was content to let us. That was the day my little kids found out that Daddy carried. Took much longer to convince the children to leave that little detail out of the story that they told their friends when they got home.

  17. TeeJaw says:

    The recent killing of a Yellowstone visitor near Canyon Village involved a 53 year old man from California hiking with his wife. They were about one and one-half miles from the trailhead. They spotted a female grizzly with 2 cubs at a distance of approximately 100 yards. They immediately stopped, backed up slowly and tried to leave the area. The bear charged, ran the man down and killed him a couple of seconds. The wife escaped with minor injuries.

    They were not carrying bear spray, and the newspapers are making a big deal of it. I don’t know where any of you ever got the idea that bear spray is illegal, the rangers practically insist that you carry it. For that matter, firearms are legal to carry in Yellowstone and Teton parks because they are legal in Wyoming. The national parks, like national forests, follow the law of the state in which they are located.

    A man who saved his life by shooting a grizzly about a year ago (outside the park) was convicted of a misdemeanor for shooting a bear. He was not carrying bear spray and it is pretty much agreed that this influenced the jury. Everyone here thinks bear spray is a magic elixir. It’s no such thing, of course. It may work, or it may not. If you let loose of it in a wind you will quickly wish you’d never heard of the stuff.

    If you come to Teton or Yellowstone, remember this. In Teton County, Wyoming public opinion is on the side of the bear. In an encounter between a grizzly and a human where only one of them is going to go away alive, people here want it to be the bear. I don’t hike in Yellowstone for that reason.

  18. Ed says:

    @TeeJaw – Hey I have been been visiting the Teton and Park County, Wyoming areas for many years. I always take a Ruger Alaskan in 44 Mag and the Garrett Cartridge Hammerheads with me. If I need to defend myself from a bear, I will not have bear spray, since it is legal to fly with gun but not bear spray. As for public opinion in Teton County, not a worry, I would just give Tom Jordan. LOL

  19. TeeJaw says:

    Ed, The Ruger Red Hawk Alaskan is certainly the right gun, and I suggest you carry bear spray as well. You can buy after you get here. It’s available everywhere, including the visitors center in the parks.

    Let me give you a good reason to carry bear spray. You will fare better with law enforcement and, if necessary, a jury if you were carrying bear spray. It will support your claim that you went to your firearm only as a last resort after all else had failed.

    Of course, all of that including your mental deliberation took place in the span of 1.3 seconds.

    A jury in Jackson recently convicted a man of illegally shooting a bear even though some of them made comments later indicating they believed that he was in mortal danger when he shot the bear. He wasn’t carrying bear spray and that influenced their decision. Bear spray on his belt would have protected his criminal record.

    The jury system protects us from overzealous law enforcement and prosecutors. We have nothing to protect us from overzealous juries except our own understanding of group psychology.

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