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03-07-2012, 04:24 PM #1
Bear problem? Guns won't make you safer, study shows
PROVO — Conventional wisdom isn't always based on common sense, and sometimes isn't even based on real data — especially when it comes to animals of mythological proportions like bears. BYU wildlife biologist Tom Smith wants to change that.
A new study suggests that one of the most commonly suggested deterrents against bears in the wild — guns — actually won't protect you very well.
"It really isn't about the kind of gun you carry, it's about how you carry yourself," said Smith. "We need to respect an animal that could potentially take our lives."
Smith, who has studied bears in the field since the early '90s, has heard his share of stories about how to deter a bear attack — anything from putting your hands above your head to shooting blanks from a shotgun. None of which actually work very well and some of which are actually dangerous.
"It was clear a lot of the practices that were had were not thought out or based on science," Smith said, speaking of his time studying in Alaska.
Bear spray is more effective than guns in both deterring attacks,
protecting humans, and saving bears lives, according to several
studies by BYU professor Tom Smith. Credit: Courtesy of BYU
Books, as well as a lot of passed-down lore, suggest that guns can scare off a bear, or stop a bear in the middle of a charge. Some suggest loading a shotgun with blanks as well as live rounds. Some advocate a rifle rather than a shotgun. But none of them had any data to back up the claim.
So Smith got some. He and his colleagues looked at 269 incidents involving humans and bears in Alaska and divided them out in terms of who used a gun, and who had a gun, but didn't use it. What they found was that there was no statistical difference in terms of injury or death between those who used their gun (229) and those who didn't (40).
"We're seeing more and more people in bear country with guns," Smith said in a press release. "Yet guns, for most people, are not their best option. You don't even need a gun if you behave appropriately."
This isn't the first time Smith has taken a stance against the the idea that guns are effective against bears. In 2008, Smith released a study saying that bear spray is more effective than guns.
How to avoid an attack
- hike in groups
- avoid areas of poor visibility
- make noise as appropriate
- avoid startling mothers with cubs
- be more cautious in brown bear country
Part of the problem is that shooting accurately is very difficult in a terrifying situation like having a giant animal charging at you. Even if you do kill the bear, that's still a problem, given declining populations and the the loss of what a bear can contribute both economically and ecologically.
"It's a conservation issue in that we'll see needless bear mortalities," Smith said.
His studies, taken together, show that non-lethal deterrents like bear spray are actually safer for humans and bears, as well as more effective. He calls the situation a two sided coin.
"On one side, human safety is a huge issue. On the other, we're having bears blown away for no good reason."
Smith suggested that taking the appropriate precautions and carrying yourself in the right way are the most important things. He compared it to putting on your seat belt when driving — there is no "best" way to be ejected from your car in an accident. The best thing is to be prepared to begin with.
"There is nothing in this study to contradict common sense," he said.
Smith is an associate professor of Plant & Wildlife Sciences at BYU, and conducted the study with Stephen Herrero of the University of Calgary, Kathryn R. Johnson of the Alaska Science Center, and Cali Strong Layton, an undergraduate at BYU, also a co-author. It will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management.
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03-07-2012, 08:06 PM #2
Reminds me of this classic.Dave C
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03-08-2012, 09:32 AM #3
hike in groupsUtah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.
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03-08-2012, 08:15 PM #4
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03-17-2012, 03:26 PM #6
In a life or death situation, it doesn't matter whether it's a bear, or a burglar, many victims will fire their weapon prematurely often fireing low and in front of the target. I'm betting one who researched attacks where a person tried to defend themselves with a weapon would find similarities concerning effectiveness in firearm defence.
I'm a fan of guns that increase the odds in the shooters favor such as; shotguns, handguns that can fire shotgun rounds, and handguns with lazer targeting. A shotgun can increase a shooters accuracy as they shoot multiple projectiles at once covering a wider area, however is very large to carry as a defense weapon, a handgun that will shoot shotgun rounds (the Taurus Judge) is easy to carry, but has a limited range, however one who carries a Judge can has the option alternating shotgun rounds and pistol rounds which will give a shooter more range. And as far as lazer sites go; the Crimson Trace is very effective for all handguns.
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03-18-2012, 01:04 PM #7
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I'm betting one who researched attacks where a person tried to defend
themselves with a weapon would find similarities concerning effectiveness in
A few points:
1. The chances of getting attacked by a bear are extremely slim. If you see a bear, especially a brown bear, condider yourself to be very lucky. Bear attacks are very rare.
If you are unlucky and an attack actually does happen:
2. Pepper spray is much, much more effective than firearms to ward off a bear attack. Still, it isn't 100% effective and people have done things like spray upwind which incapacitates the user rather than the bear. Wait until a bear is at closer than 25 feet to spray.
3. An injured bear is a dangerous bear. After shooting a bear that didn't die after the first shot, playing dead won't work. If you injur the bear it won't scare, nor will it lose interest if you play dead. If you didn't kill it with the first shot, chances are you're dead.
3. If you do shoot a bear, you had better make sure that you have the right weapon. The only thing a handgun is good for is shooting yourself if you need to in the event of a bear attack. An appropriate weapon is a 0.300 or greater caliper rifle or a 12 gauge shotgun using rifled slugs.
4. Bear bells, at least in SE Alaska are now considered to attract rather than deter bears. One of the bears' favorite snack is a juicy marmot. Apparently bells can be confused for marmot calls.Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.
03-18-2012, 01:12 PM #8
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03-23-2012, 02:04 PM #9
A good book on the subject - arguably the definitive book on the subject - is Stephen Herrero's Bear Attacks: Their causes and avoidance. The author is an expert on bear behavior and researched every reported bear attack going back for many years. His findings would seem to corroborate what the study above says, including what it says about the efficacy of bear sprays. If memory serves me here, the author also concluded that there were no reported unprovoked bear attacks upon groups of 4 or more adults, so even someone who is bearphobic (and I admit to suffering from that a bit myself) can feel very safe in bear country if he or she is with 3 or more people.
03-23-2012, 04:14 PM #10
2) I could assure you, during an "oh $hit" moment and someone who has no training in the chemical side of less than lethal usage, people are not going to "test the wind" just after they lost control of their bowels. Telling the average person to wait until the threat gets closer is not something the average person is going to do. Twenty-five feet seems like three when you're caught in that type of situation.
3) Shooting and then playing dead? Who does such a thing? What moron is going to fire once and say, okay it's play dead time? It's dead time for the threat that you are facing. Who is carrying a weapon with just one round in it? Maybe if you had a RPG, you would only need one round, but seriously, who arms themselves with one round? Not the person who feels the need to pack heat anywhere they go. You continue shooting until the threat is neutralized. That goes as well when you have the right to use deadly physical force against a person. This is not the movies. People don't always die with a one shot stop, neither is a animal that outweighs you twofold. And in those "oh $hit" moments, it's not like you're shooting at a piece of paper at your leisure.
3a) There are choices in handguns that will take down bear. The 500's, .444, .445 .454, .460, .480 by no means are these small framed guns...These are the big boys, big bore.
4) Out of curiosity I listened to the little marmot, not one that I heard sounded like a bell. They chirp, more like a squirrel or birds. I wonder if some bears relate the bells to humans because the humans need to feed wild animals. I'm thinking that is more the likely correlation.
And, I understand data and how it can be used. But, if we have a conservationist, the last thing they would want to see is an animal killed. If there are ways to keep the animal alive, they will push arguments in that direction. Sure pepper spray could work, it works by attacking and inflaming mucus membranes. Eyes, nose, throat are areas of effectiveness. But, it doesn't always work either and there is always a risk of cross contamination. So, now the bear has a seasoned dinner The more options you have at the ready, the better off you'll be if the threat ever shows it head.
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