While hiking in Yellowstone, or Glacier National Park, or any other wilderness area that has grizzly bears, your best line of defense in the unlikely event of an attack is bear spray. According to one study, bear spray is 95% effective in stopping a bear attack, while firearms are only 55% effective.
Below is a video produced by Yellowstone National Park that demonstrates what you can do if you stumble upon a bear while hiking, how to handle a bluff charge, and how to properly use bear spray.
In a January 2012 Backpacker Magazine article, Dave Parker, a certified bear spray safety trainer, is quoted as saying that:
"If an animal comes within 50 feet, use your spray. If the bear isn’t running, point the nozzle about 30 feet away, and fire a series of one-to-two-second bursts. If it’s charging, point the spray at the bear’s chest and hold the trigger until the can is fully discharged. Out of spray and the grizzly is still charging? Don’t run, lay on your stomach, cover your head, and play dead."
Jamie Jonkel, a bear management specialist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, offers some additional advice:
"If a bear charges from a distance, spray a two to three second burst in the direction of the bear. Experts recommend bear spray with a minimum spray distance of 25 feet.
Point the canister slightly down and spray with a slight side-to-side motion. This distributes an expanding cloud of spray that the bear must pass through before it gets close to you. Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you.
Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge. Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.
If you have a sudden close encounter with a bear, spray at the front of the bear. Continue spraying until the bear either breaks off its charge or is going to make contact."
For more information on hiking in bear country, including how to avoid a surprise encounter, please click here.
If you need to purchase bear spray for an upcoming hiking trip, please click here.
Hiking in Glacier.com