Wyoming legislation might require GYE backcountry users to have bear spray

Spike in unhappy grizzly encounters in Greater Yellowstone could result in bill-

While pepper spray isn’t always the answer in an encounter with a grizzly, most often it is with lots of benefits to humans and bears.

Bear spray bill on the way. Proposal would require permitted backcountry users in griz country to carry pepper spray. By Cory Hatch.  Jackson Hole News and Guide.






  1. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    WOW, now it is nice to pull up the news and have this! I sure hope the bill pass’s and it is a good step towards making folks bear aware, I see the hunters are giving the most moans and groans, but hey, if it saves a bears life it needs to be done!

  2. jdubya Avatar

    I agree April, this is good stuff. If nothing else it will make people more aware of their surroundings and make them think about alternatives to just blowing the bears away.

  3. Cliff Avatar

    I don’t buy the hunters’ argument that they don’t have time to drop their guns and pull their bear spray. If they’re stalking through prime grizzly habitat, they need to have bear spray at the ready. It’s not that hard.

  4. Alan Avatar

    Great news! Would like to see the same thing in Montana. No one says that you HAVE to use it over the gun. Everyone expects that you will do what you have to do to protect yourself. But this gives you the option. It gives you the ability to choose the spray when it makes sense to do so.
    Education and training are the keys here. Demonstrating that it is not necessary to “set down your gun” or “throw down your gun” in order to use bear spray. It can be fired from the hip if necessary, especially if the holster is left unlatched. In some cases it could be faster than trying to aim a gun. A cloud of bear spray covers a lot more territory than one wildly fired bullet. It certainly would be a better choice while carrying out an animal (gun presumably slung), while field dressing, or when trying to “save” another person who is being attacked.
    The bottom line: it’s not the answer in every case, but can be the far superior choice in many cases.
    Also, one would think that this is the kind of proactive legislation that Judge Molloy is looking for.
    I would even be in favor of the state selling spray to hunters at a discount (or providing discount coupons etc.) We subsidize the crap out of livestock, for God’s sake. Why not a subsidy to help wildlife for a change?

  5. SAP Avatar

    The reporter needs to fact. check this:

    “While only 44 people have died from grizzly attacks since the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of those attacks have occurred in the last 20 years.”

    It may be the case that non-fatal (to humans) bear encounters have risen with the grizzly population. It is not true that human fatalities from grizzlies have risen in the last 20 years.

    In the GYE, no one has died from a bear attack since 1986. In the NCDE, I can’t name more than three fatalities from 1989 to 2009.

    Fatal attacks up to the mid 1980s tended to involve food-condtioned garbage bears. Such bears are thankfully becoming a thing of the past. Fatalities that didn’t involve garbage bears could have, in several instances, been averted with better human decisions (ie, don’t approach grizzlies for a photograph) & maybe bear pepper spray. Some fatalities & serious injuries were just bad luck, with no time to use a defense system (spray or firearm) even if available.

  6. Jeff Avatar

    I’m supportive of this bill depending on the details, but I’ll be shocked if it actually passes through the state legislature especially since this is only a four week budget session beginning in early February.

  7. DumOleBob Avatar

    Congratulations and thanks to Teton County Prosecutor Steve Weichman for have the foresight and courage to take these steps! Steve is a HERO!

    Unfortunately, such a bill would stand a better, MUCH better, chance of passage through the Wyoming legislature if it required people to carry a firearm, not a pepper spray. In other words there is NO chance the folks in Cheyenne will go for anything that would remotely protect a predator even in a National Park! It just aint gonna happen…

    Now that it is legal to carry firearms in National Parks it begs the question: How long will it be till Bubba, visiting Yellowstone, packin’ on his hip a 44 mag hog, shoots a “threatening” griz when the bear takes a break from chomping on roots and grass and looks at Bubba?

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks. I was very suspicious of that figure when I read it this morning.

  9. SAP Avatar

    Ralph – actually, that statistic may be accurate for all of North America – I’m not sure. It would stand to reason that an increase in bears (U. americanus & U. arctos) and an increase in people would lead to some rise in fatal encounters.

    However, since the article is about enacting regulations to reduce conflicts around Greater Yellowstone, it seems out of context and misleading to cite fatality statistics for anywhere except the GYE.

    Relying on the summary on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_bear_attacks_in_North_America), in the US & Canadian Rockies (Alberta, eastern BC), it appears that there have been about 10 people killed by grizzlies since the late 1980s. From 1910 to 1987, 16 people were killed by grizzlies in the US & Canadian Rockies.

    If we just look at the US Rockies (lower 48), it’s really remarkable how few people have been killed in the post-garbage-bear era. Again, ZERO deaths since 1986 in the GYE; THREE deaths in the past 20 years in the NCDE.

  10. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I sure hope this bill does pass. I agree that it is not an excuse that hunters can’t drop their guns and get bear spray. Common sense would dictate keeping it at the ready at all times.

    Now that it is legal to carry firearms in National Parks it begs the question: How long will it be till Bubba, visiting Yellowstone, packin’ on his hip a 44 mag hog, shoots a “threatening” griz when the bear takes a break from chomping on roots and grass and looks at Bubba?

    I think this scenario will happen very soon. With the way some people have been drooling over the “right” to carry their guns in national parks.

  11. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I was at the elk lake trail head a few weeks ago and met a young man hiking on the Howard Eaton trail. I noticed that he was armed with a pistol and asked him if he knew that you can’t carry weapons in Yellowstone until Feb.
    He showed me his ranger badge attached to his belt and told me he was a ranger out for a hike on his day off and he could carry a pistol as long as he had his badge showing.
    This seems very strange. We are supposed to carry bear spray(and I do) when hiking in Yellowstone, so we don’t shoot a bear, but off-duty rangers can carry a gun to protect them from the bears? This is not an area that would attract poachers this time of year or other bad guys, so being prepared for doing some law enforcement just doesn’t fly.

  12. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Actually any cop in the country can carry their gun in the park, and they don’t even have to be an active cop, they can be retired, police officers, retired or active, can pretty much carry a weapon anywhere or anytime they want in the US and the Supreme court affirmed this right several decades ago, they are indeed above the laws that we have to follow.

  13. jburnham Avatar

    “Weichman said he specifically chose not to target hunters for the bill.”
    Is this saying that the bill won’t apply to hunters? Or is he saying he’s not trying to single out hunters?

    If this law doesn’t apply to hunters then I don’t see it doing much good. It’s not like unarmed hikers are causing many bear deaths.

  14. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Based on the various things I have read, it meant he is not singling out hunters and they would also be required to carry spray..


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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