The truth about bear spray — it’s not just for bears

What is bear spray?

How should I carry bear spray?

Where you carry your bear spray is crucial and companies sell numerous styles of holsters that allow you to quickly access your can. You should wear it in a place that is readily accessible and comfortable for you: on your hip, in a chest or waistband holster, or an outer winter coat pocket. Never place bear spray inside your backpack or a place that will take time to get to it. Its also not good practice to clip it to your backpack because you may take the pack off and put it down. If you are in a group, each person should have their own personal can, that way everyone is prepared.

How do I use bear spray?

It is important that you practice using bear spray so that you are comfortable using the spray, know the range of the spray, and how know to avoid spraying yourself. Manufacturers of bear spray sell pressurized inert cans that are great to practice with. Be sure to realize how bear spray is affected by the wind. Do not use your actual bear spray to practice, it reduces the effectiveness of the spray.

Watch this short bear spray demonstration from our partners at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee:

What should I NOT do with bear spray?

Remember your first line of protection is to make noise while recreating outdoors. When you encounter a large animal make sure it knows you are there. Make noise, stand tall, and yell out to the animal. Just following these tips can help minimize the risk that you’ll need bear spray at all. Without running, start to back away slowly and move away from the area — bear spray is a last resort.

Who can carry bear spray?

Unlike firearms, anyone can purchase and carry bear spray. The investment is usually $35 to $50. And, safety classes and permits are not required. Also, unlike firearms which need to be accurately fired, bear spray does not need to be accurate as the animal simply needs to pass through the cloud of spray.

What animals will bear spray work against?

Bear spray will work against almost all mammals including bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, wolf, moose, elk, goat, sheep, and deer. And yet, the most likely scenario for needing bear spray is in the event you encounter an aggressive domestic dog.

Where do I store my bear spray when not using it or when in my vehicle?

When not in use, store bear spray with your hiking gear, like in a garage, or any other cool, dark place. Avoid leaving your bear spray in a vehicle, especially during the summer. The heat in the vehicle can cause the bear spray canister to explode.

Where can I get bear spray?

Most outdoor retailers sell bear spray or it can be ordered (but not returned) online. Make sure it says “bear spray” (with capsaicin content) and not pepper spray.

Can I fly with bear spray?

Bear spray is not allowed on-board planes, whether in carry-on or checked luggage, so plan to buy it at your destination if your trip involves outdoor activities and adventures.

Where can I get more information about what to do if I encounter wildlife?

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a series of Living with Wildlife pages. You can also call a biologist in your region to understand more about coexisting with wildlife.



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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.