Updated: April 02, 2020

There is possible nothing more terrifying than being out in the woods when you suddenly come across a bear. Bears are huge, ferocious creatures that make them one of the most dangerous predators on land.

They are clearly not the kind of animal you want to encounter while you are out on a hike or while camping, and so it makes sense to have a product that can help protect you against these ferocious animals. Something that would incapacitate the animal long enough to allow you to get away, without requiring you to learn any special skills to be able to use it. This is where the use of bear spray could be the perfect choice.

What does bear spray do?

Bear spray is a great product to help incapacitate a bear for several minutes. It’s one of those products that every person who is heading to the outdoors should carry with them, as it will cause a bear to stop in its tracks, giving you plenty of time to be able to escape.

That sounds like a miracle product, but the truth is that bear spray works on the same basic principle is that a pepper spray. If you have ever seen the effects of pepper spray, you can see how quickly they work on a would be assailant. They cause the guys to start watering, make it difficult to see, make it difficult to breathe, and force the person to stop to try to regain their faculties.

The truth is that bear spray works on a bear very much like pepper spray works on a person. Bear spray contains 1% to 2% of a product known as capsaicin. This is the active ingredient in their spray.

When sprayed and coming in contact with the bear, it will cause the bear to have an extreme adverse reaction. The eyes will immediately begin to water and become irritated. Nasal passages become constricted and the bear find it difficult to breathe. This should be enough to stop the bear from continuing, as it takes several minutes for the effects of the spray to cease, maybe as long as an hour.

The good thing about the sprays is that a person does not need to point it directly at the bear’s face. Many of the products that you will find disperse a fog that creates a shield anywhere from 10 to 20 feet away from you. Then, when the bear comes in contact with the fog, the chemical inside the bear spray begins to react with the bear, causing it to stop.

How effective is bear spray?

This sounds like a truly great product. If you are a person who has stumbled upon a bear or finds one entering into your camp you surely want a product that you know will keep you safe. So, how effective is bear spray at protecting you?

Several studies have been conducted to answer that very question. To answer this question, it is important to understand that the range is a key factor. If the bear is 25 feet or more away from you, even the most potent bear sprays will not be very effective.

This is why it is important that you use the bear spray according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. You will find that many give a maximum effective range of no more than 25 feet, with some being as few as 10 feet. If you are attempting to spray a bear that is 30 feet away from you with a product that has an effective range of 15 feet, you might as well be spring the bear with water. It is simply not going to work.

It is important to note these kinds of factors, because they play a significant role in the effectiveness of the products. One must consider effectiveness in terms of what the manufacturer provides as an effective range.

With that in mind, if a person is using a bear spray, most studies find that it is effective in stopping the bear immediately 92% of the time. While not a perfect rate, it does assure you that you will get some protection. In addition, 98% of persons were found to have escaped without any injuries when facing a close encounter with a bear. Close encounter is within 5 to 10 feet.

Muddying the waters in many of the studies has been the fact that several bears have been sprayed with bear repellents before. Some in numerous instances. What this has led to is the Bears gaining a tolerance to the bear spray. Not only did the studies find that the bear spray will not repel the bear, but have found in some instances where it will actually attract the animal. Some even found that the bear became more aggressive and combative when sprayed.

This is obviously a serious concern, as people are relying on the sprays to protect them.

Additional information from recent studies have found that the sprays were effective on 90% of black bears and 100% of polar bears.

One additional piece of information related to effectiveness. In 14% of incidents cited in the study, the user reports that they were affected by the spray. This is something to keep in mind whenever you are using the product, as wind or how you used the product can come back to haunt you.

Does bear spray work on dogs?

As with human beings, bear spray works effectively on dogs as well. You can easily incapacitate a dangerous dog. However, you should be careful with this. The sprays are made for a bear that could weigh 300 or 400 pounds, maybe even more. A dog may weigh hundred pounds at most.

What this means is that the potency of the bear spray could be lethal to a dog. You should never use the spray on an animal like this, unless you are in extreme danger.

Should the bear spray get on your dog, make sure that you flush the dog’s skin and eyes with water as soon as possible. Try to keep your dog call, and help to keep it from running around. This will only agitate it, which can make the conditions even worse.

While not perfect, the truth is that bear sprays work. They can be quite effective in halting a bear that is charging towards you. Of course, the most sensible thing to do is to avoid a bear. If you can keep away from these animals, you are more likely keep yourself safe. This is just common sense that can keep you out of trouble. Just keep this extra protection with you should you find it necessary.

Does bear spray work on humans?

We saw in the last section that there were a large number of cases where the user became incapacitated or was greatly affected by the bear spray itself. This poses a serious concern because you don’t want to be incapacitated while the bear is stopped. You want to get away.

What this does tell you is that these products work against people. The unexpected side effect of a person getting the product on themselves incapacitated them. This is what would happen if you sprayed someone with the bear repellent. They would likely suffer the same effects that a person would who was sprayed with pepper spray.

However, this should not be used except for as a last resort. Because of the potency of the bear spray, it can cause a severe reaction on a person. This could even be life-threatening.

Bear spray on humans side effects

When a person is sprayed with bear spray, there are several common reactions that a person may undergo. These include:

  • Swelling of Mucous Membranes of Eyes, Nose & Throat
  • Nasal & Sinus Discharge
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Drying of the Eyes
  • Involuntary Eye Closure
  • Painful Burning of the Skin
  • Hyperventilation

Most of these are not life-threatening. Reactions, such as burning of the skin, coughing, and nasal or sinus discharge, will be irritating and uncomfortable, but will not be life-threatening.

However, some of these reactions can be quite severe. This includes shortness of breath, hypertension, hyperventilation, and swelling in the mucous membranes. When these kinds of reactions occur, they can have an extreme reaction in some persons. Shortness of breath or hyperventilation can lead to shock or an inability to breathe. This can cause a person to fall unconscious, and get injured when they collapse.

Should you get bear spray on yourself, you should treat the affected areas immediately. Eyes should be flushed with water, with saline or shore water being preferred. Skin that is affected should be thoroughly flushed as well. You should also consider using soapy water to help remove the spray from your skin. Ensure that you do not rub, as this may cause irritation.

While it is difficult, you want to try to stay calm and to breathe as normal as possible. The more upset or irritated you get, the more profound effects can be.

Sheryll Berrett

Sheryll Berrett

An online journalist, entrepreneur and a fanatic blogger. She is the Former Lead News Writer at SearchEngineJournal. She wrote a huge numbers of article on Forbes, Huffingtonpost, Hubpages, and so on. Find her on twitter @SheryllBerrett

Leave a Reply