Bear spray is a pressurized propellant, designed as a last-resort defense against attacking bears. The spray is intended to temporarily irritate mucus membranes in the eyes and respiratory system by using the active ingredient capsaicin, a derivative of hot pepper plants.
Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to carry bear spray at all times when traveling into known bear habitats. While not a guaranteed defense against bear attack, bear spray, combined with proper outdoor knowledge and environmental awareness, will increase your chances of survival during an encounter.
Legal Use of Bear Spray
Bear spray is legal in Canada for use only against attacking bears and is regulated by Health Canada and the Pest Control Products Act. Spraying people with bear spray is strictly prohibited. Under the Canadian Criminal Code it is illegal to sell, advertise or carry any product designed for personal protection against human attack. Spray canisters contain compressed gas and may explode if heated. Avoid using bear spray near open flames or sparks and store away from temperatures over 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
Purchasing Bear Spray
Under the Pest Controls Products Act, bear spray may only be sold in Canada by authorized vendors who maintain proper sales records. Information gathered during sale must include a purchaser's name and address, the amount purchased, and a signed Notice to Purchaser Agreement.
The Agreement outlines the legal uses of bear spray and contains a liability warning. Purchasers will in effect sign a waiver assuming all risk during bear encounters. It is illegal to sell bear spray to anyone under the age of 18 or to anyone unwilling to sign the Notice to Purchaser Agreement.
Transporting Bear Spray
Transport Canada classifies bear spray canisters as Class 2 dangerous goods. Airline passengers are prohibited from carrying bear spray in checked and carry-on baggage.
Avoid Bear Encounters
Canadian Heritage Parks Canada advises that while bear spray can be an effective deterrent against an attacking bear, it is not foolproof and should only be used as a last resort. Variables such as wind, spray distance, rain and canister shelf life can reduce the repellent's effectiveness.
The best defense against bear attack is avoidance. Stay alert in known bear habitats. Travel in groups on established paths during the day. Watch for signs such as droppings and diggings. Leave the area immediately if fresh signs are observed. Familiarize yourself with proper avoidance techniques.
If visual contact is made with a bear, keep a distance of at least 100 yards. Do not attempt to approach or feed a bear.
Based in Vancouver, Lyle Osinchuk has been writing since 1984 and has been published on eHow. He works behind the scenes in the film and television industries. Osinchuk holds a Diploma of Technology in broadcasting from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.