Bears are a very real fact here in Northwest Montana. Both Black and Grizzly bears are abundant, and bear preparedness is a necessity.
If you plan on hiking most anywhere in this area, bear spray is a must, and remember to never go hiking without it.
Bear spray has been proven to be the best deterrent to a bear attack, and yes, even more effective then a gun (although a gun is a good backup in case the bear spray doesn’t fire, in some areas we carry both). Grizzly bears are no laughing matter. They are not like the black bears you might see in Yellowstone or other places, Black bears can also kill you but are often not as aggressive or unpredictable as grizzlies (or so I’ve been told).
Grizzlies are very territorial and will charge you and will kill you! Grizzly bears are not always brown, they can be black, blonde, and cinnamon. And black bears are not always black.
Here is a chart to help identify the two
You can purchase bear spray at many different locations around Whitefish and northwest Montana.
You can rent bear spray inside Glacier National Park at Apgar village on Lake McDonald from Glacier Outfitters (look for the Yurt).
196 Apgar Loop Road, West Glacier, MT 59936
Remember; you can not fly with bear spray and you also can not cross over into Canada with it if your planning on visiting Banff or Waterton National Park.
You also cannot bring bear spray into all national parks, for instance Yosemite National Park does not allow it, so please check the park rules in other states.
We are not experts on bears or bear spray, and luckily have not encountered one up close to date (and hope to keep it that way), although we did see one at Polebridge at a distance. Please do your research before venturing out into the wilderness.
You can check this link for bear sightings and trail closures in Glacier. Its always a good idea to check this link before a hike in the park
you can also check the webcams in the park for current conditions https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm
Tips for using bear spray from the NPS website:
Tips for Use
- Keep bear spray readily accessible in a quick draw holster, not stored in your pack.
- You don’t have to be a good shot with bear spray. Just put up a cloud of spray between you and the charging bear.
- Practice! Use an inert can of bear spray to practice removing it from your holster, removing the safety tab with your thumb, and firing. Practice firing inert bear spray with the wind at your back, into a head wind, and with a cross-wind so that you understand how bear spray is affected by the wind.
- Do not use bear spray like insect repellent. It does not work as a deterrent when applied to people or equipment.
- No bear deterrent is 100% effective: learn how to reduce your risk while hiking in bear country.
- Make sure your bear spray is EPA-approved: don’t depend on personal defense products to stop a charging bear.
- Bear spray can explode if it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t store it in the passenger compartment of vehicles or near any heat sources.
- Make sure your bear spray hasn’t expired.
If a Bear Charges You
- Remove the safety clip
- Aim slightly down and adjust for crosswind
- Begin spraying when the charging bear is 30-60 feet (10-20 yards) away
- Spray at the charging bear so that the bear must pass through a cloud of spray
- Keep spraying until the bear changes direction
- If the bear continues to charge, spray into its face
- Leave the area promptly
Here is a short video on how to use bear spray. Please take a moment to learn how to use it, as it might just save your life.