Going Afield? Take 2 Cans Of Bear Spray

Hungry Horse News, Bear Hunting Magazine
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Let's see, you're planning to go on a hike in Glacier National Park. In your pack you've got a water bottle, a rain jacket, a candy bar or two, some sun screen and two cans of bear spray attached to your the belt.

Two cans?

That's right. Two cans. That's what author Tim Rubbert recommends when hiking in grizzly bear country.

Rubbert's new book "Hiking with Grizzlies: Lessons Learned," recommends carrying two cans of spray for the simple reason that he's had encounters with bears where he's emptied his can and was glad to have a second one.

Of course Rubbert is no ordinary hiker, either.

The 55-year-old from Whitefish has hiked about 10,000 miles in the past eight years alone and he said in the past 20 years, he's sighted more than 1,700 grizzlies.

Many were far away.

Some were not.

Rubbert has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to witness a bear mauling - his friend Jim Cole was mauled by a bear in 1993 while the two were hiking near Fifty Mountain in Glacier National Park.

Rubbert used his bear spray to fend off the bear after it bit Cole.

But Rubbert doesn't blame the bear - he blames poor hiking technique by himself and Cole. The two weren't making nearly enough noise when they surprised the bear, which Rubbert believes was bedded down in the area.

It was that encounter, and other encounters where Rubbert has had to spray bears, that made him a firm believer of carrying two cans. When one can is gone, it's a long hike out without any protection if you don't have a second can, he notes.

But the book isn't all about bear spray. In fact, most of it is about how to hike in bear country - make noise, watch for sign of bears such as tracks and scat, look for food sources that will attract bears to an area and be alert to your surroundings.

In other words, if you're hiking and you see bear scat and bear tracks and berry bushes along the trail, odds are pretty good there's a bear around.

But Rubbert also preaches against letting your guard down. Just because there's no bear sign, doesn't mean a bear isn't close. He says when he hikes he's actually looking for bears. That might seem backwards, but he notes it lessens the chance of having a bad encounter if you know where the bears are and they know where you are.

"In grizzly country, you should never take anything for granted. Arrogance and complacency can kill you," Rubbert notes.

Rubbert's book is an easy read. Unlike other grizzly books, his stories are first hand encounters. Some are downright funny. He uses them to teach lessons on how to hike in bear country.

"I just tried to provide a framework to hike safely and not be freaked out by bears," he said.

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