ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. – A coalition of organizations has pressed the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to require hunters to carry bear spray in grizzly bear habitat. The Commission will meet on July 18 and 19 to decide on this question, as well as to consider proposals concerning methods for controlling the spread of chronic wasting disease, regulations for wolf hunting, and other topics.
In April, the organizations submitted a petition to the Commission requesting adoption of a bear spray requirement. The proposal follows years of high grizzly bear mortalities due to hunter encounters with bears.
Today representatives of conservation organizations released the following statement:
“Wyoming today has the opportunity to adopt a distinct policy that will protect bears and people alike,” said Nicholas Arrivo, a staff attorney at the Humane Society of the United States. “The evidence that bear spray works is overwhelming, and the time to enact this life-saving proposal is now.”
“Bear spray has been proven time and time again to be the most effective tool in preventing injury to both people and bears in close encounters, including hunting conflicts,” said Bonnie Rice, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “It’s common sense to require hunters to carry bear spray, and the Commission should make it mandatory.”
“Some have suggested that a gunshot during hunting season is like a dinner bell to a grizzly bear, at a time when bears are filling their bellies before denning,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A mandate requiring hunters to carry bear spray would save the lives of people and bears.”
“This common-sense safety measure is akin to requiring a helmet when riding a bike,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “We know it works, and we know it saves lives, so it should be standard practice.”
“It’s clear and simple; bear spray works,” said Kristin Combs, executive director for Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “Hunters are extremely vulnerable, especially deep in bear habitat precisely when the animals are actively searching for food. This one easy practice will undoubtedly save the lives of both humans and bears.”
In recent years, Yellowstone’s grizzly bears have suffered record levels of human-caused mortality. Hunting-related conflicts consistently represent one of the leading causes of grizzly bear mortality in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Most human injuries caused by grizzly bears occur during encounters with hunters.
Mandatory bear spray could prevent these unnecessary casualties. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that bear spray is 98 percent effective at preventing human injuries during bear encounters, while firearms are effective only 50 percent of the time.