Packing bear spray for your hike? Here's how to use it

As the temperature rises in spring, so does the number of people hiking in Alberta’s parks, in turn increasing the chances of an encounter with bears as they begin to emerge from their dens.

Learn to be quick and avoid spraying your own eyes with these tips

Bear spray user tips

4 years ago
How to use it safely 0:32

As the temperature rises in spring, so does the number of people hiking in Alberta's parks, which in turn increases the chances of a bears encounter as they begin to emerge from their dens.

To keep outdoor enthusiasts as safe as possible, Alberta Parks' staff led a few hundred people through a workshop in Canmore Saturday, demonstrating the proper use of bear spray.

"We're really wanting people to get aware of being out on the landscape, sharing this place with wild animals, bears in particular, because they're coming out of their winter hibernation," said Daniella Rubeling, an interpretation and education co-ordinator with Alberta Parks for the Kananaskis Region.

"This is an opportunity for people to refresh and remind themselves bears are out and how to be safe when they're out here."

Along with making noise while on the trails and hiking in groups, conservation officer Melanie Pachkowski says bear spray should be carried, but used only as a last resort.

The first thing to make sure of, said Pachkowski, is that the safety is removed from the canister of bear spray before you need to use it.

"You need to make sure it's out of the package and if there's any kind of zip tie holding the safety on, you've already removed that," she said.

"If they were ever to need it, they wouldn't be able to get the safety off."

Alberta conservation officer Melanie Pachkowski says bear spray is a good thing to carry whenever hiking in Alberta's parks. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Tha canister should also be carried somewhere easily accessible. Another important thing to be aware of, said Pachkowski, is knowing where the spray will go when you use it.

"If you point high and [a bear] is racing toward you, there's a probability that you might actually spray over the bear, as opposed to, if [the spray] is down and it's running toward you, it has to run through that cloud in order to get to you," she said.

Pachkowski says the bear shouldn't be more than six meters from you or the spray might not reach them. And she warns, most canisters only last about eight seconds, so users need to be careful to conserve the spray.

It may seem obvious, but Pachkowski reminds users to avoid getting the spray in their own eyes.

"You can almost be guaranteed if you've sprayed the canister, you're going to experience some level of contamination," she said.

And only spray if a bear is being aggressive.

With files from Kate Adach