Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bear Country

I attended a class for first responders in bear country, taught by Retired Alaska Master Guide Brent Hudson. I work in a remote region of the US, with black bears and grizzlies, where armed law enforcement backup may be a prohibitive distance away. Some take-aways from the class were:
  • Bears have an excellent sense of smell and good hearing. Their eyesight is less acute.
  • Black bears evolved as forest bears where grizzlies are more suited for open areas.
  • Base your actions on bear behavior. A bear who is probing your work area is sizing you up for attack and must be dealt with, where a bear surprised by your sudden presence may respond well to a slow withdrawal.
  • Running may provoke a chase reaction.
  • Unarmed combat with a bear only works 45% of the time, and your chance for survival is inversely proportional with the size of the bear. 
  • Bear spray only works reliably if the bear inhales the aerosolized spray. Tests on wild bears have shown that bears will lick OC spray off of their fur as if it were a tasty snack. 
  • 9mm and .357 magnum are not recommended.
  • Hollow point ammunition is not recommended.
  • Heavier handgun calibers like .44 magnum, .454 Casull, .500 S&W, and possibly 10mm are recommended, with heavy for caliber, hard cast, non-expanding bullets.
  • Shotguns with Brenneke slugs are recommended. Buckshot is not recommended as it may not have adequate penetration capabilities. 
  • Magnum rifles in >.30 caliber are recommended.
  • Always fight black bears. Playing dead may or may not be effective against grizzlies. If you decide to play dead, protect your face, go prone with your hands clasped behind your neck, and don't make any noise. 
  • A grizzly can bite your head in half. 

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