What is in Bear Spray and How Does it Work?

If you work or visit areas where bears may be present, you might have been told to “be prepared with bear spray”, but what is actually in bear spray and how does it work?

In short, bear spray is the last line of defense against bear attacks. While many bear encounters do not result in the use of bear spray, in close contact encounters, it has been proven to minimize harm and prevent fatalities. In a study conducted in Alaska, it was found that 98% of people who carried bear spray were uninjured in a close-range bear encounter.

In a study of 83 bear-related incidents, 98% of people who carried bear spray were uninjured in a close-range bear encounter


How does it work?

Bear spray is an aerosol, similar to hair spray or bug spray. Aerosols are a combination of propellants and solvents under pressure that are contained within a can.

The propellant is what allows for the solvent to be dispersed into the air.

To learn more about handling bear spray click here

Most bear sprays use a propellant called R134a, popular for its non-flammable and non-toxic properties. R134a was recently banned in Canada without an essential-use permit due to its negative environmental impact. 

To learn more about the environmental impacts of bear spray, click here

The solvent is the product that is being dispersed into the air. In the case of bear spray, the solvent or product is called capsaicin.

Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers. It is commonly used in food products, pharmaceuticals and animal deterrents. Capsaicin creates a burning sensation upon contact, making it an irritant to mammals, including humans.

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