Bear Spray Works in Great Bear Wilderness, Montana

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

Dan Kotter works with a team that researches grizzly bears and their population. He had plannned on hiking into Great Bear Wilderness, just south of Glacier National Park. The first day was going to be a 15 mile hike on Devil Creek Trail, camp over night, then hike out the next day as part of the research project.

The Devil Creek Trail is a route that Kotter has traveled before, collecting bear hair samples from rub trees that are repeatedly used by bears along the trail. Kendall is using rub tree hair samples from across the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to monitor grizzly bear population trends.

It was a foggy day and visibility was poor, as Kotter came across a couple different bear tracks, one of which he recognized as being a grizzly bear's. As he hiked over a pass he became more vocal, to avoid a surprise encounter.

He heard something in the brush, that he thought might be a cub. Instead a large grizzly came out of the brush, stood up on its legs and made a clacking sound with its jaws. Kotter already had his bear spray unvelcroed and ready. The bear dropped down to all fours and started a medium paced gallop towards Kotter. Kotter trying to remain calm, backed up slowly, with the bear spray in his hand. Then he slipped on some snow, and went down on his side and sprayed in the direction of the bear. At one point he felt the paw on his thigh, and kept spraying. As long as he could hear the bear he kept spraying.

The incident with the bear happened very fast, but it will be unforgettable for Kotter. He scrapped his hiking plans and went back to the trailhead. He is unsure when he will feel comfortable hiking alone again. Kate Kendall, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who is leading the research, and has worked with bears over a decade says this is the closest call anyone on her team has ever experienced. From


Retired2hunt's picture

Enough Persuasion for Me!


I told myself after reading about the last bear attack that I was going to get some bear pepper spray before my next wilderness hunt.  Well I didn't and relied on my handgun as my bear "deterrant" this past week.  Luckily I didn't need to use it as I wasn't being noisy walking through the woods but rather making animal sounds with my cow call.  I guess it was a perfect recipe for an encounter.

After reading this article on yet another bear attack I think... no I know I will be making that purchase before the next trip AND learning how to properly use it through some practice.

I agree with other posters here - I would have certainly messed my pants given the same situation!  And I would think hard about hiking Grizzly country alone.

I'm certainly glad Mr. Kotter was able to succeed in defending himself.  This is enough persuasion for me.




COMeatHunter's picture


And I thought crabbing in the Bering Sea was the most dangerous job in the world!  Not sure if I'd want to go collect more hair samples by myself either.  Yikes!

Ca_Vermonster's picture

I know there is really no

I know there is really no other option, but having had to have been sprayed with OC (pepper) spray myself (training, don't get any funny ideas Wink ), the biggest problem I would have is that if not properly used, you could also be incapacitating yourself.  If the wind is wrong, you'll get blowback.  If you contact any parts of the animals, or your hands, that have touched the spray, you are now contaminated.

Like I said, I doubt that there is any other option, and I would also take my chances and spray the bear, but it's something for people to be wary of.  That stuff will affect you as much as it affects a charging grizzly bear, so be prepared.  It's not a pleasant experiencs.  But, probably better than being eaten, I guess.

Glad it worked out for the guy, and glad he's okay.  Surely a terrifying experience, expecially after he slipped and heared/felt that grizzly upon him.  Lots of bear attackes out there this year, for sure.

swisheroutdoors's picture

Really good point about the

Really good point about the pepper spray.  I watched an idiot pull out spray from his girl friends purse to use on myself and another guy.  Back in the younger good ole Club Boucher days.  The wind was howling and swirling aroun in the parking lot.  That guy got himself and his girlfriend from the wind.

hunter25's picture

With all the bear attacks

With all the bear attacks this year it's good to read about someone who was properly prepared for the situation and had the presence of mind to use it effectively. I have always planned to buy some myself but have never actually done it. I usually always have a gun but really feel in many situations the pepper spray would probably be a much better weapon to use. The stuff works every time if you get it where it's supposed to go.

SGM's picture

Lucky Guy

Dan is one lucky guy and should go get a lotto ticket. I just think it is a bit crazy to hike alone in grizzly country but glad he did have the spray. Seems like the spray did its job and neither the bear or Dan where hurt however,  I bet the hiker needed to change his shorts after the incounter.

numbnutz's picture

That's a scary situation for

That's a scary situation for sure. To me it sounds like the spray did it's job. I actually bought a can of bear spray before my wilderness hunt this fall. We don't have any Grizzlies ( thank god), but we do have a very healthy population of Black bears. There has been a few attacks and alot of sightings this year so I thought it would be good idea to buy some. I'd rather have it and never need it than need it and not have it. I'm glad this researcher wasn't seriously injured but I'm sure it scared her pretty good. If I had an encounter like that with a Grizzly I'm sure it would take me a minute or two to regain my composure and feel comfortable to hike alone in Grizzly country too. I'm sur she'll geet back out there again though.