As every avid hiker knows, carrying bear spray is essential for those traveling through bear country. The liquid inside each can, called oleoresin capsicum, is an oil resin derived from peppers. Sixty-seven times stronger than the average hot sauce, bear repellent is effective at stopping charging bears in their tracks over 90 percent of the time.
And, as one Utah resident recently discovered, it works well against a charging human in a pinch as well.
According to police in Ogden, Utah, an altercation broke out between two groups at the Newgate Mall on Friday. What began as a verbal spat quickly devolved into violence. And as the fists flew, someone produced an unusual weapon: a can of bear spray. From there, several things happened in quick succession.
Unlike pepper spray and mace, which produce streams of liquid, bear spray releases a cloud of product. Because of that, not only was the person directly hit with the spray affected by the blinding irritant but everyone in the area as well. The fight instantly dispersed, members of both groups desperately attempting to cover their eyes and mouths as the spice-laden spray filled the air.
Shortly thereafter, the Ogden Fire Department arrived on the scene and set to work ventilating the entire building to remove any trace of the spray. While that was happening, EMTs surveyed the damage to those in the altercation, treating those with lesser afflictions on the scene.
Medical personnel transported the person who received the direct hit to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. They’re expected to make a full recovery.
Save the Bear Spray for Angry Bears
As of Saturday evening, the incident was still under investigation. No arrests have been made and, according to local police, the person who used the bear spray remains unidentified. Authorities added, however, that the near-catastrophic commotion poses no danger to the public. The groups knew each other and the fight was an isolated incident.
Obviously, unleashing a cloud of bear spray in an indoor space is never a good idea. It’s designed to stop an angry bear at 60 feet, after all. A human receiving a blast at close range can cause some serious damage.
A spritz of bear repellent can cause a wide variety of undesirable symptoms, such as temporary blindness; burning, watery, irritated eyes; painful breathing; inflammation; and an extremely runny nose and burning sinuses. If the person affected has asthma or severe breathing issues, it can be deadly.
With that in mind, it should also be noted that, even in appropriate situations, bear spray should only be used when absolutely necessary. The risk of a bear attack is so low bear spray does little to reduce it. Yes, even when dealing with the notorious grizzly bear.