A Marine Flare May Be the Best Bear Deterrent

Pepper spray is an excellent bear deterrent but it has it’s weaknesses:

  • You have at most six seconds of spray
  • You can never be 100% sure that you have pressure in your can (if you test it, you lose one or two of those precious few seconds).
  • It’s questionable in the wind
  • It’s problematic and probably not effective from inside of a tent.

Large bore handguns are a great back-up to pepper spray and great from inside a tent but firearms have their downsides as well.  They’re

  • heavy
  • expensive
  • Not legal in many areas
  • kill or gravely injure the bear unnecessarily

I am experimenting with a third option – the handheld marine flare.  The version made by Ikaros is ideal.   Unlike a typical road flare, it is ignited by simply pulling a string.  With a properly designed holster, this can be operated with one hand.  As far as I know the marine flare is untested on bears, but it is a good bet that the brightness, sound, and the heat would be an effective, last stand deterrent against an aggressive bear.

marine flare deterrent

Advantages of marine flares as a bear deterrent:

  • light weight
  • can be ignited with one hand
  • can be used in close quarters
  • burns for 60 seconds
  • the metal tube from the spent flare can be used to strike and poke with
  • relatively inexpensive (usually less than $20 at marine supply stores).

Disadvantages of marine flares as bear deterrent:

  • forest fire risk
  • hazardous materials risk
  • risk of suffocation and burns in tents

Video demonstrating the ignition of an Ikaros marine flare:

[flowplayer src=’http://pseudo01.hddn.com/vod/bearsotp01.upstartvod/BearFlare.mp4′ width=640 height=480]

Bear Art-How to Hunt for Bear-Bear Tracking Tips

Article by Dr. Jim Halfpenny

We call it bear Valley, our secret location in Yellowstone. Walking its narrow bottom, you can feel their presence: grizzlies and black bears. Interestingly enough, we have seldom observed a bear there. However, ursid scratches left on the trees are petroglyphic communications telling us it is their home, not ours. Like Anasazi petroglyphs, we strive to place meaning into behavioral art left by our ursid friends.
The valley is an art gallery, a bear art gallery. Each marked tree, etched by claws, is a picture of ursine comings and goings and a tip to tracking the great bear. Contained in the art work is a vertical bear trail that provides an interpretation challenge for the natural history detective. What is the story told by this bear art?
Bears mark trees in three manners: by clawing, biting, or scratching their bodies against them. Claws, teeth, and hair leave distinctive patterns. Trees with soft bark, such as aspen and birch, take impressions well. Careful examination may reveal pictures on conifer trees as well, but since conifer bark is harder, markings are less conspicuous. Could it be that as many conifers are climbed by the ursides as birch and aspen, but our eyes simply fail to reveal pictures as well?
To understand tree art, the first order of business is to determine the species of the artist. Some generalities about claw marks help differentiate species. While bears may leave five claw marks per print, often the little toe does not cause a mark. Check carefully to find sets of five claw marks. Cats typically leave four claw marks, while mustelids (weasel family) usually live five claw marks per print. However, cats and weasels both have very sharp claws. Bear claws are blunt, 0.2 to 0.3 inches wide near the tips. The claw marks of cats and weasels leave signature wide-narrow-wide patterns: narrow (0.02 inches) at the beginning before the claws completely dig in, wider in the middle, then narrow again just before exiting. In contrast, bear claw marks are normally wide from beginning to end.

Tracking the Great Bear is not necessarily about how to hunt for bear, but the art of the bear reveals the bear tracking tips that leads us through his domain. You may also want to learn more about [intlink id=”89″ type=”post”]grizzlies in their natural wildlife habitat[/intlink].