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Bear spray

Bear spray has been proven to be an effective deterrent when used properly.

A Bozeman couple walked away from a surprise encounter with a grizzly bear on Saturday in Yellowstone National Park, saved from what may have been an attack by using their pepper spray.

John and Lisa Vanden Bos had parked at a pullout near the Specimen Ridge trailhead in the Lamar Valley, east of Tower Junction, according to a Park Service news release. They walked cross-country to the Lamar River and, while scouting for fishing spots, surprised an adult grizzly bear that was feeding on a partially consumed carcass. The bear immediately charged the couple and came within nine feet when the Vanden Bos quickly discharged their bear spray.

After initially retreating the bear charged the couple again, running into the original cloud of pepper spray. The bear then retreated all the way across the river and up the adjacent hillside “as fast as it could go.”

The couple did not sustain injuries, and bear spray stopped the charging grizzly.

The couple left the area, returned to their vehicle and reported the incident to a park ranger. Park rangers do not intend to search for the bear since the incident was a surprise encounter with a bear defending its carcass.

The Park Service reminded visitors that all of Yellowstone National Park is bear country. Visitors can reduce their risk of a bear encounter by carrying bear spray.

Studies have shown that bear spray is more than 90 percent effective in stopping an aggressive bear. The Park Service touts spray as the most effective deterrent when used in combination with regular safety recommendations such as: be alert, make noise, hike in groups of three or more, do not run if you encounter a bear and stand your ground if charged by a bear.

“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s Bear Management specialist. “Carrying bear spray is the best way for visitors to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects both people and bears.”

Visit A Bear Doesn’t Care Campaign for more information.