Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using a gun in bear encounters doesn't make you safer

Date:
March 6, 2012
Source:
Brigham Young University
Summary:
Carrying a gun in bear country doesn't mean you're more protected in the event of a bear encounter, according to new research. Firing a gun is no more effective in keeping people from injury or death during bear attacks than not using a firearm, new research shows.

Dr. Tom S. Smith, BYU bear biologist.
Credit: Image courtesy of Brigham Young University

Carrying a gun in bear country doesn't mean you're more protected in the event of a bear encounter, according to new research out of Brigham Young University. A study led by BYU biologist and bear expert Tom S. Smith found that firing a gun is no more effective in keeping people from injury or death during bear attacks than not using a firearm.

"It really isn't about the kind of gun you carry, it's about how you carry yourself," said Smith, who has researched bears in the field for 20 years. "We need to respect an animal that could potentially take our lives."

Smith and his colleagues analyzed 269 incidents of bear-human conflicts in Alaska for the study, appearing in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. Those incidents involved 444 people and 357 bears, 300 of which were brown bears.

The researchers found no statistical difference in the outcome (no injury, injury or fatality) when they compared those who used their gun in an aggressive encounter (229 instances) to those who had firearms but did not use them (40 instances).

The implication is that firearms should not be a substitute for doing the right things to avoid unwanted encounters in bear habitat. Although a shooter may be able to kill an aggressive bear, injuries to the shooter and others also can occur.

This finding is especially relevant given the 2010 law allowing guns in national parks.

"We're seeing more and more people in bear country with guns," Smith said. "Yet guns, for most people, are not their best option. You don't even need a gun if you behave appropriately."

Behaving appropriately, according to the authors, means following the conventional wisdom for avoiding bear encounters:

  • hike in groups
  • avoid areas of poor visibility
  • make noise as appropriate
  • avoid startling mothers with cubs
  • be more cautious in brown bear country

"This study provides statistical, quantitative support that following the conventional wisdom actually is the most effective way to be safe in bear country," said co-author Randy T. Larsen, a professor of plant and wildlife sciences at BYU. "Because once a bear charges, the odds of a successful outcome is seven times less likely, regardless of whether or not you have a firearm."

Smith and his co-authors write that using firearms in bear encounters is difficult even for experts due to the need for split-second deployment and deadly accuracy. People should carefully consider their ability to be accurate under duress before carrying a firearm for protection from bears, they write.

"People should consider carrying a non-lethal deterrent such as bear spray," said Smith, a gun owner himself. "It's much easier to deploy, it's less cumbersome and its success rate in these situations is higher than guns."

In a 2008 study, Smith found that bear spray effectively halted aggressive bear encounters in 92 percent of the cases.

Bear spray is a liquid pepper spray that comes in an 8-oz can and retails for $30-$40. The hissing sound and sight of the expanding cloud of the spray are often enough to frighten away bears. However, the intense burning of red pepper juice is debilitating and derails bears from continuing an attack.

"If you act appropriately and you carry bear spray, you are much better off than just blundering into bear country with a large firearm," Smith said.

Smith's co-authors on the study are Stephen Herrero of the University of Calgary, Kathryn R. Johnson of the Alaska Science Center, and Larsen. Cali Strong Layton, an undergrad biology student at BYU, was also a co-author.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brigham Young University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tom S. Smith, Stephen Herrero, Cali Strong Layton, Randy T. Larsen, Kathryn R. Johnson. Efficacy of firearms for bear deterrence in Alaska. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.342

Cite This Page:

Brigham Young University. "Using a gun in bear encounters doesn't make you safer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120306131921.htm>.
Brigham Young University. (2012, March 6). Using a gun in bear encounters doesn't make you safer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120306131921.htm
Brigham Young University. "Using a gun in bear encounters doesn't make you safer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120306131921.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins