Lonely Planet Writer

If you go down to the woods today in Yellowstone, you really should carry bear spray

Yellowstone National Park has launched a campaign educating people about the necessities of bear spray, a form of pepper spray used to deter aggressive bears, when visiting the backcountry.

Dunraven Pass, Yellowstone National Park.
Dunraven Pass, Yellowstone National Park. Image by mark byzewski / CC BY 2.0

Featuring Yellowstone visitors of all types, the campaign is entitled ‘A Bear Doesn’t Care.’ Campaign posters include park visitors like rock climber Conrad Anker, with lines such as ‘A bear doesn’t care if you climbed to the top of the world.’ Anker has summited peaks all over the world, including Everest three times. In a press release, park superintendent Dan Wenk said, ‘A bear doesn’t care how far you’re hiking, if you’re just fishing, or even if you work here. No matter who you are or what you are doing, you should always carry bear spray and know how to use it.’

Grisly bear stopped in his tracks.
Grisly bear stopped in his tracks. Image by Yellowstone National Park / CC BY 2.0

The posters also provide advice such as ‘Be alert. Make noise. Hike in groups. Do not run.’ According to the park, only 28% of backcountry visitors carry bear spray, which can be 90% effective in stopping bear aggression. Like human pepper spray, bear spray uses capsaicinoids, the ‘heat’ component in chili peppers, though at higher levels than the human self-defense version.

According to the park’s Bear Management Specialist, ‘Carrying bear spray is the best way for visitors to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects both people and bears.’   The ‘A Bear Doesn’t Care’ campaign will appear in retail markets and will feature other celebrities like actor Jeff Bridges, artist Jennifer Lowe-Anker, photographer Ronan Donovan and many others.