TD News, Number 1, 2004 - Internet Web Site: '' Send an e-mail request for username and password to: ''

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Deterring Bears

Forest Service employees in Southeast Alaska need a more effective way of deterring problem bears without killing them. MTDC was asked to search for a product that would do the job.

Most existing deterrents have limitations. Chemical agents, such as pepper spray in aerosol cans, are designed to be used at close range—10 feet or less. Projectiles, such as rubber bullets, have an unpredictable effect because different bears react differently to pain. Projectiles may induce an attack, especially if the pain is perceived as an annoyance associated with humans. Cracker shells—explosive noisemakers that can be fired from a shotgun—may detonate on the opposite side of a bear, sending it headlong into the shooter. Other explosive rounds may disable the bear, making it more dependent on human food sources and leading to future problems.

Field employees requested a 12-gauge shotgun round that could deliver a temporarily disabling chemical at ranges of 10 to 30 yards. Such a round could reduce the chances of permanently injuring a bear while increasing the likelihood that the bear would be deterred. Such a round might also help some bears learn to avoid humans.

MTDC found a new 12-gauge shell that fires a plastic capsule filled with oleoresin capsicum powder. The capsule breaks on impact. The shell is being developed by Pepperball Technologies for police and military use. Although the shell is not available commercially, the company agreed to supply MTDC with some ammunition for testing. The effectiveness of these rounds against Alaskan coastal brown bears is being tested in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Yakutat Ranger District of the Tongass National Forest.

[photo] grizzly bear testing a bear-resistant trash container

A captive grizzly bear tests a bear-resistant trash container at the
Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT.

For more information on deterrent rounds for bears, contact Gary Hoshide, program leader (phone: 406–329–1029; e-mail:

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