Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Smoky Mountain Officials: bear spray is legal

You may recall the raging debate this past spring over whether or not bear spray is legal in the Great Smoky Mountains or not. The debate was the result of confusion from the way the law was written, and the fact that there is a legal instument called a 'Superintendent's Compendium', which allows park managers to make local adjustments to certain laws pertaining to national parks.

Back in early May, Chris Hibbard at Your Smokies, was told in writing by Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials that "there is no legal form of bear spray allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and like any other weapon, trap or net, it is illegal to carry, possess or use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park".

At that time, this official statement seemed to put an end to the debate once and for all.

However, in recent days, GSMNP officials have reversed that statement. Bear spray is now legal in the Smokies. Here's the updated statement on the Smokies website:

"Bear pepper spray may be carried by hikers within Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the strict purpose of protection against bodily harm from aggressive wildlife. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent. Bear pepper spray is a chemical formula designed specifically to deter aggressive or attacking bears. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as “Bear Pepper Spray" and be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and individual states. Bear spray must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids."


Furthermore, according to a posting in the Backpacker Forums, this memo went out to all GSMNP employees last week:


To: GRSM All Employees @ NPS
From: Bill Wright/GRSM/NPS
Date: 07/31/2009 09:42AM
Subject: Use of Bear Spray

I want to clarify new procedures for the use of Bear Pepper Spray. We have previously considered Bear Spray to be a weapon as defined by 36 CFR 1.4, a gas irritant device. Recent conversations with the Washington Office have gotten them to develop an opinion of the language of the regulation.

Homeland Security does not consider Bear Pepper Spray to be a weapon for purposes of travel across the international boundary. It is considered a pesticide or a repellant. As long as the the product is used in accordance with the manufacters recommendations, it would not be considered a weapon. There fore we have incorporated new guidlines into our compendium.

SECTION 1.4 DEFINITIONS

Bear Pepper Spray – Also known as bear deterrent, bear repellent or bear spray . Bear pepper spray is a chemical formula designed specifically to deter aggressive or attacking bears. It must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and individual states. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as “Bear Pepper Spray”. Bear spray must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.

SECTION 1.5 CLOSURES AND PUBLIC USE LIMITS

Bear Pepper Spray:

Bear pepper spray may be carried by individuals within Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the strict purpose of protecting one’s self or others from bodily harm against aggressive wildlife. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent.


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Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

5 comments:

JP said...

For me, this is really good news to hear. This year has seen a lot of trail and camp site closings due to increased bear activity. It's good to know that protecting oneself in the Smokies won't result in later legal punishment.

Animal Protection While Hiking said...

Great news for outdoor enthusiasts needing protection from possible bear attacks in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Bear Pepper Spray is a safe and humane way to protect yourself from a curious bear ransacking your campsite or an accidental bear encounter on a hiking trail. Bear repellent is an inexpensive, lightweight and effective safety item to throw in your backpack before you head to the Smokies! Be Safe.

scribebob said...

Bears have always been a source of intrigue to the average person. Adult grizzly bears are generally huge and dangerous. And often there are “darling little baby bears” with the adults. Humans are strangely attracted to them, forgetting the potentially disastrous results of getting too close to them.

The national shame is that too many people who are armed when they are in an area where they may encounter a grizzly end up using a firearm. The result is that many grizzlies are shot and killed by humans each year, something that isn’t right. It just should not happen.

Of course it is preferable to a human’s death or maiming, but it should never get to that point. For one thing, people should be wary of getting too close to bears once they spot them. Most do avoid them, out of understandable fear.

There are alternatives to shooting a bear if it is menacing you. And they are recommended by The Sierra Club, the foremost guardian of animal rights in the wild. The Club has recommended that the Forest Service require everyone who enters a national park in grizzly bear country to carry bear spray.

That’s right – bear spray! There is a spray for bears, similar to the kinds of defensive sprays there are for people to use on predators or people who attack you on the street. And it is effective and does not cause any permanent damage to the bear.

There is a site that offers two kinds of bear sprays. One of the choices is Guard Alaska, an ultra hot pepper spray that is so effective repelling bears that it is the only one registered with the EPA as a repellent for all species of bear. And of course it is environmentally safe. The formula for the spray is endorsed by the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.

The second spray is the Pepper Mace Bear Spray. It is a powerful Magnum Fogger and it sprays up to 30 feet. It is also safe and humane.

Let’s show proper respect for our friends of the outdoors – the grizzly bear – by admiring them and protecting them from permanent harm. If you are going someplace where the grizzly may live and want to be sure you and your family are protected, take along a bear spray. It will make you feel good that you will not be in any danger from the grizzly and that, if the worse happens and one attacks, you can save yourself and not cause permanent harm to one of the wonders of the world.

Find your bear spray at www.yoursecurityandsafety.com/bearspray.htm

Ken said...

I think carring a Bear Spray is a better alternative than to killing the bear.

Ken said...

I think carrying a Bear Spray is a better alternative than to killing the bear.