Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Bear Spray: Now Legal to Carry and Use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Though I was waiting for months for the official announcement that bear spray would be legal in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, it was a sharp reader of this web site that brought to my attention the fact that the National Park web site now states bear spray is allowed in the GSMNP.

Months ago I started and became the center of a huge controversy about bear spray when it was brought to my attention that Bear Spray was illegal in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. Questions about misleading, conflicting and confusing visitor information as well as selective enforcement made matters worse.

Bear spray is far more effective that firearms are in a bear attack which by that way, even though there are more than 2 bear per square mile is extremely rare in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Since bear spray is far more effective than guns and the chances of collateral damage is far lower, it made perfect since to legalize bear spray since firearms will be allowed in national parks in February 2010.

While I was advised by park officials in late spring that the bear pepper spray law was going to change, I waited until the official announcement from the park to advise my readers about the change in the bear spray law as I did not know exactly when it would become legal.

No news of the change in the bear spray law was ever released publicly; instead a paragraph about bear spray and its legality and use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park was inserted in the GSMNPs hiking page.

Bear Spray (pepper spray formulated for bears) should be only used in an emergency against an attacking bear and not used to keep bear away from campsites or other place you wish to keep bear away from. Spraying an area with bear spray may even attract bears them rather then repel them as they will want to examine what the strange scent is and where it is coming from.

Bear Pepper Spray is only allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park for "the strict purpose of protection against bodily harm from aggressive wildlife". It must also contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids and be commercially manufactured and labeled as "Bear Pepper Spray".

I stumbled into something that made some people working in the park and some locals who refused to comply with the law all along unhappy. While my tenacity about getting to the bottom of this matter may have angered some, they do know my love for the park and how resource protection and public safety are for more important to me than not making waves. I hope that those who I may have aggravated understand my good attentions.

Though I plan to never use it, bear spray will now be part of my hiking gear. I hope that people who will purchase bear spray will learn about it, try it and only use it when absolutely necessary (which in the GSMNP should be almost never).

Just because you are allowed to have a can of bear pepper spray when hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains national park does not mean that you can ignore food storage rules, comply with staying away 50 yards away from bear or using common sense around wild animals.

Just as bear spray is now legal in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, if abused the park may take this right away just as they had to remove chain link fences from shelters as people abused the fences and would throw food out for bears. Be responsible!

Related Stores about Bear Spray and Black Bear


Anonymous said...

Well, at least you got one thing right in the last paragraph. Carrying bear spray IS a RIGHT, not a privilege, therefore the bureacrats should not have the power to take that RIGHT away.
By the way, the same goes for the RIGHT to bear firearms.

Mary said...

Considering our first trip to the Smokies in March 2010. I guess this will need to be on my shopping list. I'm actually reconsidering my decision to go after reading tons of internet stories today on the abundance and aggresiveness of black bears in the Cades Cove area. Scary!

Mary said...

Thank you for your encouragement. I am a bit nervous as it will only be my son (14 yo) and myself. We camp quite a bit, particularly with his scout troop, but have not done much hiking. He will be going to Philmont in June 2010 and we'd like to do some short hikes to help him break in his boots and get used to carrying his backpack. We are both very avid 'rule followers' so we will be as careful as we can possibly be with food storage and such. It's good to hear that we aren't likely to see many bears at that time of year. I was afraid we might encounter some hungry bears just waking up from their long winter's nap. It will be the last week of March so hopefully they will have had a chance to fill up before we arrive. We are looking at camping in the Cades Cove campground and venturing out daily from there to whatever we can walk to. I've always wanted to visit there and him training for his upcoming trip to New Mexico seems like the perfect excuse to make the drive.

Smokies Hiker said...

Mary don’t be scared in Cades Cove.

If you are planning on driving through Cades Cove and visiting the historic structures, save your money and do NOT buy bear spray.

If you are picnicking or camping in Cades Cove you need to be cautious and follow food storage rules when bear are active, but again - save your money.

If you plan on hiking in the park in a group of less than 5 people, you may think about buying bear spray. Even then - unprovoked attacks on hikers are almost nonexistent!

If you hike solo and as much as I do, there is a much higher risk and it’s worth carrying it.

If you obey the park rules by staying 50 YARDS away from bear, elk and white tailed deer you should always be safe. All of these animals ALL known to attack humans.

I don’t know of any significant injuries by wildlife from anyone following park rules and exhibiting common sense in Cades Cove.

Your biggest danger from wildlife in the Cove is if you accidentally stumble upon a wild animal. To be safe stay along the roadway, pay attention to your surroundings when you are on paths to the cabins and other points of interest, don’t picnic along the edge of woods or near high grass, stay out of high growth in the fields and you should be fine.

You may also want to stay off any trails that have a bear warning.

The most dangerous thing in Cades Cove is the drivers – especially when bear or deer are out.

Enjoy the park and relax – and besides it is very unlikely you will see many if any bear in March.

Smokies Hiker said...

Last week in March? Some bear will be out for a while by then (dependent on weather) but the bulk of black bear sightings in Cades Cove start in April.

You should really enjoy the greening of the Smokies and you may still get snow so be prepared! Wildflowers will be just starting to really kick in at that time too.

Unfortunately for you, most of Cades Cove will be closed for hiking, and all of Cades Cove will be for biking and driving as they will be repaving Cades Cove Loop Road - It's been almost 40 years since its been done last.

Break the boots in around town before your vacation!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your efforts in this! I've read where whistles and air horns might work, and might NOT work, but I don't recall ANY article that had it where bear spray didn't work. I'm glad that 'now' we can have something at our side that, should the almost impossible happen, we can use that we know WILL work! Thanks again for your efforts and keep up the good work!