Bear spray in high demand following series of conflicts involving humans

Bear spray in high demand following series of conflicts involving humans

A series of conflicts between humans and bears in Manitoba has some people taking extra precautions before heading into the woods.

Outdoor shops have noticed an increase in customers who want to buy bear spray for their wilderness adventures.

But if you haven’t stocked up already, you may be out of luck.

Even though he’s now retired as a wildlife biologist for the province Vince Crichton still spends a lot of time outdoors as a consultant studying moose behaviour.

When he goes into the wild he always carries a horn, bear bangers and bear spray.

“It’s in a holster so I carry it on my hip,” said Crichton. “Not in my pack sack on my back. I carry it where it’s readily accessible.”

Getting the spray in Winnipeg may take some shopping around.

City retailers have noticed a spike in sales of the repellent, many stores now sold out in the wake of a series of conflicts between humans and bears.

In early July a hiker reported suffering a bear bite while on a backcountry trail in the Whiteshell.

Three weeks later, an 8-year-old girl went to hospital with cuts on her face after a bear attacked her in a tent at a campsite along South Cross Lake.

The stories have been shared in the news and on social media.

“I would say we’ve probably had an increase of requests in the 50 to 60 per cent higher range in the last month just because a lot of the articles,” said Wilderness Supply owner Rick Shone. “We actually can’t keep it in stock right now.”

There’s more on order, but it’s a similar story at other outdoor shops.

Both Cabela’s and Atmosphere Polo Park say they’re currently sold out of bear spray but have more on order.

Canadian Tire’s website showed one canister available at one of its Winnipeg locations Wednesday afternoon with no availability at the rest of the city stores. However, the product was listed as available at Canadian Tire in Selkirk and Steinbach.

Manitoba Sustainable Development said encountering bears in the wild isn’t unusual, but the number of conflicts this season is.

“There’s no clear indication that any one common event has caused these things,” said Brian Joynt, the province’s manager of game, fur and human-wildlife conflict.

Joynt sees the demand for bear spray as a good sign people are preparing themselves before heading into the woods.

He said there are preventative steps to take to avoid coming into contact with bears in the first place.

“Don’t let them have access to human food, or garbage, or pet food, or your barbeque can be an attractant.”

Shone advises customers to utilize an air horn and bear bangers before spray.

He tells people the repellent is a last line of defence.

“If you use the bear spray, it could affect you also if the wind blows back,” said Shone.

In all his years outdoors Crichton has never had to fire bear spray but he has come into close contact with the animals.

“You’re in their home. So you gotta take precautions out there to make sure that you don’t end up being attacked by one of these things,” he said.

There are rules in places for retailers selling bear spray so be prepared to show identification and fill out some paper work if you plan to pick up a canister.

Published at Wed, 15 Aug 2018 20:49:24 -0400