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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Bear spray with a happy ending

Screen shot of Napoleon 
with my bear spray

What creepy thought comes to mind when you find a tooth-punctured canister of bear spray deep in the woods? Yes, some poor sod made his last stand against Bruin and lost. In this case the poor sod was me, but my can of bear spray made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Last June I absent-mindedly left my bear spray behind when I set a trail camera beside a seasonal creek. A bear visited 2 hours after we left, and during the next 3 months the camera video-captured bears on 50 occasions. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have video proving that Bruin got the big surprise while munching the canister. My lost bear spray was not in the camera’s field of view, at least not initially. But after it presumably exploded in the jaws of a bear -- it became a bear toy. I have video sound tracks to prove it. You can hear bears rolling it on the rocks and crackling the metal in their jowls. 

The canister mysteriously appeared at the edge of a video clip on day 53, and remained in view of subsequent clips until a yearling cub retrieved it from the water 11 days later. This bear -- I call him Napoleon -- seemed to make a statement. He walked up to the camera and dropped the can there. 

It didn't stay there. I found it several yards downstream in the dry creek bed, and how it got there I'll never know. It didn’t smell like pepper spray, but its remaining chemical taint gave me a coughing fit. The crumpled bear spray canister now resides in the clutter of my garage and workshop – a souvenir of another adventure with a happy ending.


Woody Meristem said...

Great tale, too bad the bear puncturing the canister wasn't caught on video. In well over 200 encounters with black bears, only two or three have ever made me nervous and only one of those threatened me (with jaw popping) so it's only recently that I've begun carrying pepper spray -- more for humans than black bears.

During a training session 24 years ago we each received a full 0.5 oz canister of pepper spray in the face and eyes (much less than a canister of bear spray) -- it was a memorable experience. For a mammal with a much more sensitive sense of smell it must be even more of a shock; the only thing that would lessen the effect would be the bear's coat of hair, but that's not very thick on the face and does nothing for the eyes and nasal passages. I've long though that nobody should carry pepper spray unless they've received a dose themselves and understood both its effects and some of the best practices when it's used -- like it's best not to spray it into the wind.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Reminds me of what I've heard about taser training. Sound advice. Thanks, Woody.