Monday, March 19, 2012

Don't bring a gun to a bear fight

New research about how to defend yourself against bears has some bad news and some good news - and, unsurprisingly, brings the bad animal enablers out in force.

The bad news is that even if you have the right to bear arms, arms aren't always effective against bears. Yes, a gun worked to kill or drive off the animal in 80 percent of cases, but it turned out that statistic is not as comforting as it sounds. Many people were mauled or killed anyway, resulting in the surprising conclusion that carrying a gun made no statistical difference to the outcome of a human-bear encounter.

How is this possible? Bears aren't immune to bullets, thank goodness, but people often couldn't load or shoot fast enough. And there's another reason guns were ineffective that should not surprise readers of this blog: one-fifth of the armed humans were reluctant to use the weapon against the animal.

If that's not enough bad-animal enabling for you, another "expert" suggested that what we should really do is - wait for it - try to reason with the bear:

Talking in a calm voice, not moving when the bear's coming toward you, giving the bear a chance to think things over and realize you're not threatening. A lot of times that will resolve the situation.

Yes, we've got professional wildlife experts suggesting that we should let bears "think things over." Still, all is not hopeless. While the study author said "A charging animal is like a small car running at you," fortunately there's at least one big difference between a small car and a bear: bears don't like pepper spray. In an earlier study, he found that pepper spray worked for all but three of 156 people in 71 conflicts with bears.

I like those odds better - and it also means that if you're ever caught unarmed in a pizza shop invaded by a bear, at least you can try throwing the shaker of red pepper flakes.

Illustration by Natalie Dee, who is obviously not a bear enabler.


  1. "Bears aren't immune to bullets, thank goodness," STILL laughing about that line! I have bears that vandalize my property every spring and fall. I hate it. Bullets, yes.

  2. I don't know how to use a gun, so I am relieved that basically condiments are the answer. I own several kinds of hot sauce that I bet would give pepper spray a run for its money.

  3. There is an amazing, although vividly illustrated, graphic novel being published a page at a time about when bears go bad over at

  4. Oh cool, it's by that Axe Cop guy. Thanks for the link.


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