I have been living in Alaska for about two months now and have only seen one cub running across the road. I am going to start hiking hear pretty soon with some friends and was wondering if it's really neccesary to buy bear spray for protection? I have never really had to worry about bears where I come from but don't want to take any chances up here.
Packing a gun works much better.
This is a great question and I am glad that you posted this. This was the VERY first thing that someone told me to get before I start hiking and climbing and my area. Ooops... yeah... I didn't do that and then again I am incredibly fortunate that I haven't been stuck in line with a bear.
I'd like to hear other responses, too.. because this will definitely help me.
(I still have yet to get Bear Spray, but I do have a pistol... but ask me how to use it? I have only used a pistol once in my whole life!)
Here's a web link that has some interesting research and stats on bear-human encounters, spray and firearms: http://www.absc.usgs.gov/research/br...epperspray.htm
A few of things that I keep in mind when deciding what to bring on a hike. First, bears very, very rarely take on a group that is hiking. If you're solo, working your way quietly thru alders, along a noisy salmon stream, then you're at higher risk to surprise a bear. Also, if you're with a group, a non-lethal spray can be used on a bear without worry of where the rest of your friends are standing. They may cry if they get a whiff of spray, but nobody gets really hurt.
Second, I think the weight and shape of pistol and shotguns makes them sometimes clumsy to have at hand, especially while wearing a pack. A weapon in your pack is pretty useless.
Third, you need to be comfortable using whatever it is you decide to carry. If it's a spray, learn how to slip the safety clip off and invest in a practice can so you can see the spray cloud. That's a good $35 investment. Same with a gun, spend time on a range so you know what you're doing.
And, practice all the things that help avoid a bad encounter with wildlife in the first place: group size, noise, food storage, camp site choice, etc. There's a good summary at http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/for.../bearfacts.htm
Most of all, get out and hike! For all the talk of bear encounters, it's likely the most dangerous thing you'll do is drive to the trail head.