Skip to comments.Hiker deters charging griz with bear spray
Posted on 10/18/2011 4:38:56 PM PDT by SJackson
What a difference pepper spray can make. Thats the confirmed thinking of Dan Kotter after he recently deterred a charging grizzly bear in the Great Bear Wilderness while working on a bear population research project.
Kotter was hiking alone on the Devil Creek Trail about 5 miles in from the U.S. 2 trailhead on Oct. 8. He intended to hike in 15 miles, camp overnight and hike out the next day, but those plans were abruptly canceled.
That morning it was fairly socked in, really foggy, Kotter said Thursday.
He hiked up to a pass where he encountered at least two sets of bear tracks, one of which he could confirm as being left by a grizzly. So he began to proceed cautiously as he walked downhill on the other side of the pass.
The visibility was really low. The cloud level was basically keeping me from seeing down trail, and there was a couple inches of snow, Kotter said. I started vocalizing a lot more, knowing there were bears in the area.
In the middle of a hey bear! shout out, he heard some commotion in nearby brush.
Thats when I thought there may have been a cub involved, he said. I already had my spray unvelcroed. ...
A large bear came out of the brush, went up on its hind legs, clacked its jaws at me, came down on all fours and started a medium-paced gallop toward me.
Kotter said he tried to remain calm and backed up slowly, but thats when he slipped on some snowy brush and fell to the ground.
I rolled to my left side and put my arm over my head and shot the spray toward the bear, he recalled. All I could do was clinch my teeth and hope I could deter the approach.
At one point, he felt the bears paw step on his thigh. And thats what caused me to keep on spraying and spraying and waving my arm. I could hear it the whole time.
Although Kotter was not looking directly at the bear, he is confident he hit it with the spray, because he was spraying in the direction the bear was approaching from and it quickly retreated back into the brush.
It all occurred in a blur, but it is unforgettable for Kotter.
Whenever something that big is moving toward you, its really hard to think and respond. ... I was shaking really badly, he said.
The incident put an end to the days hike, with Kotter quickly returning to the trailhead.
Im not sure how long it will take me to hike alone again, he said. It was a really good comfort to know that hiking with bear spray is a great deterrent. It makes me feel very safe that it did work.
That hike, like many others Kotter has been on this year, wasnt purely recreational. He is among about 30 people working under Kate Kendall, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who is a leading grizzly bear population researcher.
The Devil Creek Trail is a route that Kotter has traveled before, collecting bear hair samples from rub trees that are repeatedly used by bears along the trail. Kendall is using rub tree hair samples from across the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to monitor grizzly bear population trends.
Last year, genetic analysis of collected hair samples led to the identification of 335 individual bears. Kendall calculates thats about one-third of the estimated grizzly bear population in the ecosystem, which encompasses Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and surrounding bear habitat.
Kendall has been doing DNA-based population research for more than a decade.
Obviously with the hundreds of people on these projects, some have had encounters with bears and some have had bluff charges, said Kendall, who has been bluff charged by a grizzly herself. But we havent had any injuries. This is definitely the closest call.
Kendall said Kotters story is important because it demonstrates that even when a person is careful, a surprise encounter is still possible, and it is another example of pepper spray being an effective bear deterrent.
I think it is really good to get this story out there so people can see the value of not only carrying bear spray with you, but carrying it on your hip where its accessible and can be used at a moments notice, she said. He didnt have a lot of time.
In anticipation of the suggestions as to the proper deterrent, spray works, and is a good first line defence, and isn't everyone's first choice. And more lethal choices fail on occasion.
I wonder if urban people enjoy this spray? Like cologne, ya know.
Silly hiker. He should have used the peace sign or coexist’ sticker on the bear..
I belive the biggest advantage he had was he was ready. He had his spray out.
Spray worked this time good for him.
Hey, I’d like to be on your ping list for the outdoors.
I love getting into the outdoors, usually alone.
Been a long time since a beer ran through my camp. A friend got up early one morning and walked off behind a large clump of bushes to do his business.
This was very quickly followed by a large shout “Arrrrrgggggaaaaa” as we all looked over that direction a black bear came around the other side of the brush, straight through camp never looking back and headed for the hills.
About this time my friend came around the other side holding into his pants shouting “BEAR BEAR BEAR” and pointing behind him at the brush.
The camp was rolling on the ground we were laughing so hard.
“spray works, and is a good first line defence, and isn’t everyone’s first choice. And more lethal choices fail on occasion. “
Spray? Okay. But I wouldn’t be without my Ruger Redhawk 44 Mag!
The encounter I'm talking about was the first in that particular area for five years but they're happening with greater frequency now that the population appears to be recovering. Don't be scared, be prepared, and stay smart.
Is your camp in a dry county?
Make sure you’re aiming in the right direction, otherwise the bear will simply appreciate you preparing yourself with 11 secert herbs and spicesm
Glad he was not hurt...
Welcome back Mr. Kotter....
I could point to stories of people jumping from airplanes with failed parachutes and living, or being shot in the head and living, but that doesn’t give rise to the idea that those things should ever be tried or that we cannot say, “Jump from an airplane without a parachute and you will die” or “Shoot yourself in the head and you will die”.
If a bear to attacks and your only hope is that pepper spray saves you, well, while that bear is eating your head you will wish you hadn’t been so afraid to carry a large bear sized firearm.
God smiled on this fellow, plain and simple.
Now, I have nothing against pepper spray. Either way, it’s a win - win situation.
Heads, the spray repels the beast and you live another day.
Tails, it pi$$es him off even more and he kills you so much quicker and mercifully.
I love Glacier Park, and never hike without bear spray. Thankfully I’ve not had to use it!
You are correct, though he could have asked the griz to wait while he took off his pack.
And that's where the legend began.
Can’t disagree. Maybe that’s why we have two hands.
Wonder what brand/type of pepper spray he was carrying? So many out there...
Alaska Grizzly Bear Notice
In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts,the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is advising tourists, hikers and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while traveling this summer.
We advise people to wear noisy little bells on their clothing so as not to startle bears that are not expecting them. We also advise people to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a grizzly.
It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear scat and dung of grizzly. Black bear droppings will contain numerous berries and squirrel fur, while the droppings of the grizzly will contain small bells and smell of pepper spray.
I don’t believe him. Does he have an pictures from his camera or phone. Probably one of the eco-nuts promoting the bear spray. Possibly the bear spray combined with a 45 might be believable.
I used to hike alone. Not any longer, after an enter with mountain lions. Now I carry either a 45-70 rifle or a 12 gauge with bear slugs when in the wilderness.
"unvelcroed"? sorry...that just sounds gay.
He is among about 30 people working under Kate Kendall, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who is a leading grizzly bear population researcher.
"ummmm....that's ONE; you guys count the rest"
Next year’s hike will be dubbed “Welcome back, Kotter”.
LOL In a dry county in Arkansas, my son had to take a 50 mile round trip to get his beer....he left the bear alone..
ummmm....that's ONE; you guys count the rest"
Having tried to get the wife, who is often out alone in her work, to carry a handgun in a belt holster, I gave up a few years ago and switched her to a 13oz 30foot range bear spray. It may not put an attacker in the morgue, but if the US Forest Service says it will deter most 800 pound bears, I think it will do. Try UDAP. About $40.
Make sure you have enough liability insurance to cover the bystanders. Homeowners will cover it but not a high enough limit if she let’s it go in a crowd. Get a liability umbrella.
Only two of the half dozen or so species are found in MI, but what the heck, eh?
Had UDAP in the old yellow plastic device. It leaked as well, after a year or two. I see now they've changed their containers.
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