Black Bears in the News

Ray

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By now, most folks should be aware that last weekend there were two fatalities due to black bears here in AK.

First was a teenage boy running in a mountain race. He appeared to be chased down and killed. The bear was still on the body when responders made it up the mountain and using Find My iPhone located the body. Bear was shot in the face as it charged a park ranger. Ran off into stupid nasty terrain. Using a spotter plane after a few days of fruitless ground searching they found a few bears in the area and sent ground based people in. Killed a few bears, one of which had an injury to the lower jaw and is assumed to be the bear in the attack. Others are assumed to be collateral damage.

Second was a geologist working near Pogo mine in the interior. They work in pairs and the second person in the pair was injured. Not a lot of info until today. Link

One thing to note about the attack on the geologist is the use of spray. Not much info about it other than it was used and didn't stop the bear. When spray started to hit the market decades ago there was a study in Canada about its effectiveness to protect bow hunters in tree stands. I saved a copy of this some where way back when but can't find it now. The study pointed out the fact that black bears have what appears to be a nictitating membrane which they use to protect their eyes. Black bears are able to deploy this membrane and not be very bothered by the spray. Grizz do not have this feature and are typically very bothered by spray. Black bears that were repeatedly sprayed over a season had learned to deal with the effect and not be bothered at all.

Its early summer in Alaska and there is nothing to eat out in the wilderness except grass, mushrooms, and a few moose calves. Any bear you encounter will more than likely be hungry and not bothered by anything not bigger than them. With a built in defense against spray, a big chunk a lead moving fast is a better solution. But you have to be serious about it and train. You will only have a second or two to deal with the animal.
 

Bar

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I've read about spray not working on blacks like it does on grizz. I wasn't sure it was true, but now we know why and is true. Good info.
 

ChrisC

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I thought bear spray, pepper spray, etc. affects wet areas, so it isn't limited to just eyes but nose and mouth also. Is that true?
 
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Ray

Ray

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I thought bear spray, pepper spray, etc. affects wet areas, so it isn't limited to just eyes but nose and mouth also. Is that true?

It will have an effect on the nose, mouth and lungs if inhaled or ingested. The few cops that I know who have been exposed in training say its the eyes that react the worse to it. If you can you stop breathing and move out of the mist zone, you recover quickly. If you inhale it you will have to deal with some serious hacking and coughing as your tissues start pumping out mucus.

The thing to consider about bears, and all wild animals in general, is their fight or flight system is significantly more powerful than ours. Making spraying an aggressive bear potentially more of an issue. Its already pumped up, and some tiny screaming critter just annoyed it, so its going to dish out a butt kicking. And if its hungry, you better fight for your life. The data study out of Canada a few years ago on their bear attacks showed that predatory lone male black bears are the biggest hazard. That should have woken everyone up, but people just don't get it.
 

Beendare

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.......The study pointed out the fact that black bears have what appears to be a nictitating membrane which they use to protect their eyes. Black bears are able to deploy this membrane and not be very bothered by the spray. Grizz do not have this feature and are typically very bothered by spray. Black bears that were repeatedly sprayed over a season had learned to deal with the effect and not be bothered at all.

......

Are you sure about that Ray?

I know polar bears have it ...and it makes sense as they dive down in cold water....but I'm not aware of black bears having a nictitating membrane......
 
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Ray

Ray

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Are you sure about that Ray?

I know polar bears have it ...and it makes sense as they dive down in cold water....but I'm not aware of black bears having a nictitating membrane......

This link states that they have a well developed nictitating membrane. It is citing the book The Carnivores, by RF Ewer.

This is a link to a page on Google Books from Contributions to the comparative anatomy of the mammalian eye. If I read that page correctly many bears have nictitating membranes.
 

Beendare

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This link states that they have a well developed nictitating membrane. It is citing the book The Carnivores, by RF Ewer.

This is a link to a page on Google Books from Contributions to the comparative anatomy of the mammalian eye. If I read that page correctly many bears have nictitating membranes.

Two conflicting links there in your post.

hmmm...First says they have it.....the second states they have the membrane but can only use it when they are sleepy.

Now you have me looking this up.....I couldn't find another source that confirms they have a controlable nictitating membrane....tho i didn't look all that hard. It seems, there are many species that have it true..... but aren't capable of using it. Most references i could find list only Polar bears and Pandas with the nictictating membrane that they actually can use. It would be interesting to know definitively.
 

Beendare

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Ray, thx for posting your info.......I find this interesting that we have F&G depts recommending pray when there is evidence to the contrary...or at least seems to be maybe there isn't a big enough pool of data yet.

I would really like to contact that Stephen Herrero that was cited in your last article...but it doesn't say where he is from. I emailed the Mn dnr guy in charge of black bears cited in your other link....hopefully he responds.

Did you read the comments below your last link. It appears that herrero has done studies on bear sprays ineffectiveness and the one guy dave smith conveys it;
Here’s what Herrero’s 1998 study on Field Use of Capsicum Spray As A Bear Deterrent said about the 4 incidents when bear spray was used against “aggressive” black bears, including 1 predatory incident: “In all four incidents the spray apparently changed the behavior of the bear, however, in no cases did the bear leave the area after being sprayed. In 1 case the bear was shot and killed after being sprayed. In another case, the bear left after a shotgun was fired. In the other 2 cases, the person left. In 1 the bear didn’t follow, but in the other the bear followed the person but was finally able to make it to camp, but only after firing a bear banger.”

Bear spray also had a poor record against curious black bears, and bears seeking food or garbage. I would never trust bear spray for protection against black bears. In particular, I want a firearm in hand against predatory black bears. It’s criminal that biologists and agencies do not warn the public about the danger of relying on bear spray for protection against black bears.

Another comment refutes this....the debate goes on. If you know how to find this Herrero...shoot me a PM
 
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Ray

Ray

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Herrero has published a book on bear attacks, and is a professor in Calgary. He might have retired by now. He has co-authored many other bear/human studies for various agencies and the media seek out his opinion every time these event occur. He and Tom Smith in UT both publish misleading data about bear attacks. If you leave your gun in your tent, get attacked by a bear outside your tent, and never get a chance to use the gun, Smith will count that event in his database as a "gun in use and not effective" event. Confirming his data bias that guns are not effective for self defense for bears.

I partly agree within him, but I also see it as data fraud. I have learned over the years up here in AK that you have to have your defensive weapon of choice on your person, and have it situated to be deployed in 1.5 to 2 seconds. I have seen hundreds of people with spray or a gun on their pack completely out of reach. I tried placing my spray can in one of the mesh side pockets on a day pack and the only way I could get to it was to take the pack off. That is imbecile level of self defense preparedness. In that last article it is stated that the lady had to get the spray out of her pack. Was it actually in the pack or in a side pocket? Not clear. But if you can't just move your hand a short distance and set off your defensive weapon, why bother at all?

When looking for the old tree stand and bear spray study, the search results were filled with Herrero's comments on the last few studies out of Canada. He was shocked that the stuff didn't work all that well against black bears, and that the most dangerous bear in north america is a lone male black bear. They are more likely to hunt you down and eat you than any other bear out there. The math on the attacks is partly influenced by proximity of humans to black bear habitat, but the fact that black bears will intentionally hunt you down was not expected.
 

jmez

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I don't know specifically about bear eyes but most all animals and birds have a nicitating membrane, or third eyelid. I'd be pretty surprised if grizzly bears didn't have them. The difference with the polar bear is that theirs would be translucent so they can see through it while underwater. That is where the "functional" designation would come from. In other animals they are not transparent.

I'm sure some on here hunt them in AK. Next time you shoot one, push in on the eyeball and the nicitating membrane will come up out of the lower corner of the eye near the nose.
 

Kevin Dill

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I have many times pointed out...

Pepper spray in all it's various formulations still doesn't penetrate silnylon, ripstop nylon, silpoly, canvas and whatever other fabrics tents are made from. I prefer my bear defense to be effective 24/7 instead of dawn to dusk.
 
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Ray

Ray

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Are your tents attacking you?

When a bear is outside your tent and stomping it down onto your head, your pepper spray will be trapped inside with you, marinating in a super sized zip lock.

Best to have a defensive weapon that will not stay inside the tent when you trigger it.
 

Beendare

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Functional membrane or not......there are cases where the spray was not effective.....appreciate you pointing out those studies Ray.

It doesn't mean spray is not the best defensive choice for some folks........
 

Russp17

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I would guess spray is not effective against black bears during predatory attacks which these recent ones were, surprise attacks and defensive attacks i would guess it works quite well. The bears were hungry is a different motivation than surprise.


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AK Troutbum

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I would guess spray is not effective against black bears during predatory attacks which these recent ones were, surprise attacks and defensive attacks i would guess it works quite well. The bears were hungry is a different motivation than surprise.


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I don't believe spray is a good option for the charging sow brown bear protecting her cubs either.
 
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