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Bear spray

Clarkston
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78 posts
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Bear spray

Do you recommend getting bear spray for doing day hikes in \Yellowstone and the Tetons? We will be flying in so we cannot bring any. I assume it is available in Jackson or possibly at the stores in the national park. Is it available and where? We would have to buy it and then give it away when we leave..... Do you recommend buying it? What do you think? Do the trails have enough traffic on them for us not to worry..... We do have bear bells on our backpacks for noise.

Moose, Wyoming
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for Wyoming, Jackson, Jackson Hole
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1. Re: Bear spray

For day hikes by people hiking together on well-used trails during the summer, it's ok not to have bear spray. The parks have brochures that explain how to take bear precautions when hiking, and it's a really good idea to review this. You can buy bear spray at many locations in Jackson and elsewhere. The price varies between $40-$55, depending in part on what size you buy. If you're leaving from Jackson, you can donate the spray to the Jackson Hole visitors centers, located on the north end of town.

Whether to use bear bells when hiking is debatable. Some say they warn bears that you're nearby, which is certainly good. But others say that bears are attracted to the bells because they're curious about them, which is bad. The old joke is: how can you tell grizzly bear scat from black bear scat? Because grizzly bear scat contains little bells and smells faintly of bear spray. That's a joke, of course.

Hope this answers your questions.

Englewood, Fl.
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2. Re: Bear spray

You do not say when you plan on visiting Yellowstone, and yes, it can make a difference. However, there really is no "fitzall" answer to this question.

In general though, if you visit during the summer season, and you stick to the well worn main trails, you will probably see enough other visitors that bears should not be a concern. If you plan on hiking in the back country early in the year though, that can be another story.

The park rangers and wildlife officials do an excellent job of keeping track of the bears. Where there is known bear activity, the trails will be closed, so you won't even have to make any decision. The rangers patrol the park regularly, and they are the best source of information on current bear activity.

It is normally advised that you should think of bear spray as an insurance policy. It's like a fire extinguisher. It is better to have it and not need it, than it is to need it and not have it. Bear spray can be purchased for around $40.00+/- a can at any of the outdoor stores in the surrounding towns, as well as most if not all of the park gift shops.

The best bear deterrent is to always hike in groups of three or more, remain bear aware, and to make sure that your presence in his area is well known. When in close cover or limited visibility situations, sing, whistle, talk loudly, knock or drag a hiking staff on rocks, do anything so as not to find yourself in close quarters with a surprized bear! They do tend to get rather cranky when we sneak up on them.... ;-) Generally speaking though, bears do not want to be around us anymore than we want to be around them. If they know that you are approaching, and they have an avenue of escape, you will probably never even know that they were there. If you do choose to carry spray however, make sure that you are completely farmiliar with how to carry it, how use it, what it is, and what it is not..

As for the bells on your backpack. They do help with the noise factor. However the park rangers and seasoned hikers in the park have a term for them.......... "Bear dinner bells" ....... :-)

Enjoy your visit to this magnificent park!

Billings, Montana
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for Yellowstone National Park
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3. Re: Bear spray

Bear Bells.......IMO, I think they're a waste. I have met people on trails and have not heard their bear bells until they were about 20-30 feet away. If I would have been a bear I wouldn't have heard them coming.

I carry bear spray with me on all hikes in Yellowstone. I'd rather be safe than sorry. Not only can it save me but it can also save the life of a bear. I've seen fresh to old bear scat along with tracks on some of the trails I've hiked on. While I've never run into a bear on the trail I've seen bears within a 1/4 mile of the trail.

Last summer we saw a bear with 2 cubs cross the road West Thumb junction. My grandson and I pulled into the rest area just up from the junction because we knew where the bears were going to come out at by the lake shoreline. We walked on boardwalks down to the shoreline and saw the bears 3x. The closest was about 500 feet and then they veered off in another direction. There were lots of people on that boardwalk that had absolutely no idea that there was a bear with cubs that close to them. There were no rangers on the road where the bears had crossed so they did not know they were there.

Do you need bear spray on well-traveled and well-maintained trails....probably not. With or without bear spray you need to be alert to your surroundings at all time. Bison should probably be a bigger concern. If you do plan on taking day hikes on other trails I would recommend bearspray. I've gone on some of the more popular trails into the backcountry and have gone a long time without seeing other hikers. Make sure you hike with someone.

Deb

Bay Village, Ohio
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4. Re: Bear spray

Our son is a biology tech for the Fisheries Department at Yellowstone and my sister-in-law is the assistant superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. Both carry bear spray with them at all times when hiking.

Clarkston
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78 posts
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5. Re: Bear spray

Thanks for all your replies. I think we will buy some since there are only 2 of us. I had a scary encounter with a black bear in Denali Park on the side of Mt. Healy. We had bear spray but the wind was coming at us..........We looked tall and stood our ground and when others came down the mountain he went away but........ I definitely want to do Yellowstone River Picnic Overlook, Elephant back trail, Mt. Washburn, )Signal Mountain, Cascade Canyon Trail in Tetons) plus North & South Rims etc. I just don't know how much time we will have......

Moose, Wyoming
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for Wyoming, Jackson, Jackson Hole
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6. Re: Bear spray

This decision often comes down to this: do you want to spend fifty bucks to buy something that gives you peace of mind and that you're unlikely to ever use? For people vacationing on a budget, this can be a real issue, and then requires some real thought about which trails you'll be on, how many people in your party, etc. But if you're not troubled by the expense, and especially if you'll be hiking more than a few miles from a trailhead, it's a dandy idea to have bear spray (be sure to check the expiration date on the can). My wife and I each carry it on all hikes (except in winter when the bears are asleep). Although on pack trips, I tote a .44 magnum.

Edited: 09 February 2011, 16:00
N Carolina
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7. Re: Bear spray

My girlfriend and I visited both parks last July 2010 and did a lot of hiking. I did purchase bear spray at one of the general stores in the park (most if not all of the stores at the junctions have bear spray) for $45 and had it with me on all hikes. It was just me and her, and on most hikes we did not see very many people except for Mt Washburn and Cascade Canyon in GTNP where there were a pretty good amount of people around.

We still felt pretty safe on the sparsely populated trails because most were wide open, along ridges or in meadows, it would have been difficult to stumble upon and surprise a bear.

I have also heard differing opinions about bells. We did not use them, just had normal conversation as we were hiking. I think just staying aware of your surroundings and using common sense should be sufficient. We gave our unused spray to a Park Ranger on our way out and considered it a donation.

You can also ask any Ranger about bear activity in an area you want to check out. I wouldn't worry very much about bears, just enjoy the beauty of both parks.

Our trip report, which includes some bear pictures, is here:

http://www.yellowstonereport.blogspot.com

Aubrey, Texas
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8. Re: Bear spray

Sounds like you're familiar with bear spray, but it bears repeating that it has to be readily available if you need it. A Yellowstone fishing guide told me about a time he took a party into the back country and surprised a bear. By the time they all fumbled with their pockets and holsters and retrieved their spray, the bear had growled at them and left. I view jangling bells as a good way to ruin a nice hike. Clap your hands and give a shout every now and then, especially when you can't see around a bend in the trail.

9. Re: Bear spray

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