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403.591.7755 (Local)

For all public safety
emergencies call 9-1-1

LEARN the WildSmart Basics

WildSmart on the Trail

Carry Bear Spray and Know How To Use It

When recreating in bear country, your best strategy to avoid an encounter with a bear is to make lots of noise, stay in groups and be alert for signs of bears in the area. Diggings, scat, visible tracks and overturned logs and rocks, are all early warning signs that bears are around.

In most cases, bears will do their best to avoid people. Most encounters happen because bears are surprised by people, or they are defending their cubs or a kill.

In the rare case of an aggressive confrontation, bear spray is your best defense. Recent reports show bear pepper spray to be more effective than a bullet in diverting or stopping a charging bear.

When choosing a bear spray make sure that it has the following features:

  • Minimum weight of 7.9 ounces
  • Minimum spray range of 15 feet
  • Expiry date clearly noted

Be sure to read the manufacturers instructions on proper use of your spray.

Bear pepper spray is useless in a backpack. It needs to be carried in a holster or attached directly to a pack strap that is within easy reach. Keep it in your tent at night and in your cooking area, always readily available should a surprise encounter occur. Keep the safety clip on at all times and remove only in the event of an encounter with a bear.

Never spray bear pepper spray on camping gear, tents and backpacks to repel bears. Used in this manner, once the irritating and volatile components have broken down, the remaining pepper residue will actually attract bears.

The most intense effects of bear pepper spray may last 30-45 minutes. It is potent enough to cause extreme discomfort and damage to the eyes if it is accidentally released at close range. Flushing the affected skin with water can help, but expect to be uncomfortable for 15 to 60 minutes. It does not cause any permanent damage.

Do not plan to transport bear pepper spray on commercial airlines. Also be aware that extreme heat or cold may affect the performance of the product. Canisters have been known to explode if left in a vehicle in summer.

Remember, bear spray is your last defense - your best defense is to avoid an encounter altogether by making lots of noise, being aware of your surroundings and watching for signs of bears in the area.

Used with permission from Alberta BearSmart community program.

Report cougar sightings to 403.591.7755
For all public safety emergencies, call 9-1-1

Important Links

Weekly Bear Activity Summary
Kananaskis Trail Closures and Warnings


Efficacy of Bear Spray

A study on the efficacy of bear deterrent spray was conducted in Alaska. 83 cases involving the use of bear spray in Alaska between 1985 and 2006 were analyzed. Results showed that in over 90% of close-range encounters with black and brown bears, spray stopped the bear’s undesirable behavior.

Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska (PDF document)






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