Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Official Written Statement on Bear Spray

Since our last new story about the use of bear spray in the Great Smoky Mountains national park more documents have surfaced online written by people within the GSMNP that were in contradiction to what I was told. Information was also circulating about the parks superintendents power to change or make exclusions to existing laws.

Bob Miller the Management Assistant and one of the official parks spokespersons issued to me in writing the following official park statement:

Status of Bear Repellent Spray in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In response to recent conflicting information, we want to clarify the Park’s posture regarding the possession and use of bear repellent spray.

Under 36 CFR Section 1.4, an "irritant gas device" is considered a weapon by legal definition and is therefore prohibited under 36 CFR Section 2.4. Items marketed and sold as bear repellent would typically meet the legal definition of a weapon. The Superintendent does not have the discretion to authorize the possession or use of a weapon for this particular purpose. As with any regulation, the degree of enforcement is a discretionary function that the individual Ranger makes in each instance based upon the totality of the circumstances and the possession and/or use of bear repellent would be evaluated in the same manner as any other violation.

Do with this information as you may. For those like me who would not want to depend upon discretion of an individual Ranger who may have had a bad day, the bear spray stays at home when I am in the park.

For the many of you contacting me about petitioning the Great Smoky Mountains national park to have the superintendent make the bear spray legal, you now have your answer. It won't help.

Though I make my living on the internet I am still amazed at both the positive and negative power that it holds. It has created far more transparency for the average citizen well as the unfortunate ability to spread false and or misleading information.

Though it has created great aggravation for me and I sure the Great Smoky Mountains national parks as well, I must commend the people who did not believe me and they in turn also kept getting the run around or wrong information which they disseminated on the internet exposing this issue that is still not as black and white that we all wish it to be.

Related Bear Spray and Black Bear News

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The park superintendent does have the authority to permit bear spray under 36 CFR 1.5 (a)(2). Bear spray is allowed in many western parks with bears and is not considered a weapon.

One example: "Bear pepper spray may be carried by individuals within Yellowstone National Park
for the strict purpose of protecting one's self or others from bodily harm against aggressive wildlife. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent."

I personally carry bear spray anywhere there are grizzlies, but usually not with only black bears - unless there are known issues with aggressive bears.

Smokies Hiker said...

Anonymous 4:52 pm

That was also my understanding that the park superintendent has the authority to permit bear spray, but there it is in black and white right from the park headquarters.

They must be correct, right?

boogief said...

The following was taken from the NPS site under hiking safety. things must have changed.

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/hikingsafety.htm

Encounters With Bears
Bears in the park are wild and their behavior is unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat bear encounters with extreme caution.

Bear pepper spray may be carried by hikers within Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the strict purpose of protection against bodily harm from aggressive wildlife. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent. Bear pepper spray is a chemical formula designed specifically to deter aggressive or attacking bears. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as “Bear Pepper Spray" and be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and individual states. Bear spray must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.

Smokies Hiker said...

boogief we showed that information at the article you can access with the link above that says "bear spray now legal..."