Seven stories of bear spray attempts gone painfully wrong. Literally NO bears were harmed in the making of this article.
Some friends and I were hiking together along the West Coast. “Gary,” who had packed the bear spray, was concerned that it might get wet in the misty coastal air, so he packed it in a ziploc bag with the bug spray and toilet paper. Later, during the hike, when nature called, he grabbed a handful of the trusty squares and headed into the trees. Moments later, we heard the sound of a giant animal crashing through the bush toward us, but it was just Gary, shuffling toward the ocean with his pants around his ankles. – N.S.
On The Road Again
One sunny summer afternoon, my dad was biking the Goat Creek trail to Banff. Cruising along the path, he lost his balance and tumbled amongst the rocks and roots, puncturing his bear spray. Dazed, eyes burning, and trailing an effervescent orange mist, he weaved his way to the Mineral Springs Hospital, where he was reluctantly admitted. After regaining his composure (and untroubled that his clothes had been hastily removed by the hospital staff for smelling like a spicy enchilada), he returned to the bicycle he had abandoned outside, saddled up, and rode the 25km highway back to Canmore, hospital gown flapping in the breeze like a cotton tortilla. – S.K.
When I was a kid, our family can of bear spray was one that my father had owned for about 20 years. Because he couldn’t trust that it would work, every family hike began with him testing the aged canister, and this had become so routine that we scarcely noticed him doing it anymore. Complacency was the killer on one particular outing, when my infant sister was handed a hot, downwind mouthful of the stuff. Needless to say, tears were shed, the hike was cancelled, and a new, more reliable can of bear spray was added to the grocery list. – M.O.
Through a Bear’s Eyes
Sent home from work with “saucered” eyes, a former co-worker of mine embarked on a mind-opening adventure up Ha Ling peak in Canmore. Enjoying the psychedelic panorama from his perch on the peak, his empathetic connection with nature compelled him to wonder what a bear experiences when assaulted with bear spray. He turned the canister on himself. The following hours were spent losing his mind a thousand metres above Canmore with no water to extinguish the blinding pain. He still owes me $50 for the borrowed can (which he instead spent on some purple vitamins from Quebec). – J.R.
On one particularly memorable hike in the Wind Valley area, my husband was delicately navigating his way across a creek’s slippery rocks, carrying our bear spray in his right hand, and holding our miniature poodle, Buddy, in the other. Suddenly his foot slipped and down he went. The air was thick with splashing and yelling as my husband dragged himself and the dog out of the water and stomped to the far bank. A subtle hissing brought him to silence as he realized a tiny puncture in the can was shooting a cone of cayenne pepper at point blank range onto Buddy’s side. In a moment of genius, he threw the can downwind. Then he put down the dog who immediately headed back towards me (and safety from the crazy man who seemed to be trying to kill him), walking directly into the cone of spray that was still shooting from the can. There he stayed, rubbing his little eyes, until the pressure abated and the spraying stopped. After a bath, Buddy finished the four-hour hike unfazed, although it was weeks before you could pat him without setting your eyes to stinging. – B.D.
I can’t remember the whole story, but I was on an Outdoor Ed trip back in high school and as we gathered around the campfire, my teacher told us about the time he sprayed himself in the crotch. All I really remember is two key words: mesh and pocket. – M.W.
Last winter my wife and I were cross-country skiing when we came upon a derelict barn. Curious, I skied to the window to look inside as my wife followed with her finger poised on the trigger of her bear spray. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and locked on something furry and big. I shouted incoherently, and my voice must have spooked the animal because, in an instant, a cougar bolted through the door and split the uprights between us. Notoriously trigger happy, my wife stepped backwards and fired, stumbling to the snow, her finger still on the trigger as the big cat shot past and straight into the woods. She lay there entangled in her skis as the red mist hovered, then settled gracefully upon her. Somewhere, a cougar laughs. – P.D.
***Disclaimer: Highline Magazine does not condone unorthodox uses of bear spray or your choice to risk carrying or not carrying it with you! You’re on your own out there, people.