Each and every fall season, bears in Yellowstone shake off the doldrums of summer and become much more active. They are on a constant hunt for food in preparation for hibernation and the long winter ahead. Bears are also more visible this time of year and potentially more aggressive, which makes them even more of a safety concern for visitors.
If you are out hiking, whether it is a 10th of a mile or a backcountry adventure, it is essential to carry bear spray for your safety. Bear spray has been proven to be the most effective tool in stopping aggressive bear behavior and preventing attacks. Below you will find all the tips and information you need to come prepared for a safe, memorable hiking experience in the world’s first national park.
Tips for using bear spray
- Keep bear spray readily accessible in a quick draw holster, not stored in your pack.
- You don’t have to be a good shot with bear spray. Just put up a cloud of spray between you and the charging bear.
- Practice! Use an inert can of bear spray to practice removing it from your holster, removing the safety tab with your thumb, and firing. Practice firing inert bear spray with the wind at your back, into a head wind, and with a crosswind so that you understand how bear spray is affected by the wind.
- Do not use bear spray like insect repellent. It does not work as a deterrent when applied to people or equipment.
- No bear deterrent is 100% effective: learn how to reduce your risk while hiking in bear country.
- Make sure your bear spray is EPA-approved: don’t depend on personal defense products to stop a charging bear.
- Bear spray can explode if it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t store it in the passenger compartment of vehicles or near any heat sources.
- Make sure your bear spray hasn’t expired.
What to do if a bear charges at you
- Remove the safety clip
- Aim slightly down and adjust for crosswind
- Begin spraying when the charging bear is 30-60 feet (10-20 yards) away
- Spray at the charging bear so that the bear must pass through a cloud of spray
- Keep spraying until the bear changes direction
- If the bear continues to charge, spray into its face
- Leave the area promptly
Where to buy
Bear spray is sold at select Yellowstone Forever Park Stores (Gardiner, Bozeman Airport, Quake Lake), at other in-park shops and service stations, and in all local communities. Always select an EPA-approved product that is specifically designed to stop bears. Personal defense, jogger defense, law enforcement or military defense sprays may not contain the correct ingredients, or have the proper delivery system, to stop a charging bear.
Renting bear spray
Bear spray is available for rent at Canyon Village. Look for the rental kiosk at the northwest corner of the visitor center plaza, 20 yards from the main entrance. For more information, visit Bear Aware.
Recycling bear spray
Bear spray cannot be taken on airplanes and may cause injury if thrown away. Recycle your bear spray at park hotels, stores, visitor centers, backcountry offices, and ranger stations, as well as area camping stores, and the Bozeman airport.