HELENA — When it comes to deploying bear spray, it’s a simple process. Point and shoot. But nothing is simple if you find yourself eye to eye with an angry grizzly. That’s where FWP employees like Bill Cook come in.
As a bear awareness instructor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he knows what to do if you bump into a bruin, and being prepared starts before you hit the trail.
“The most important thing about using bear spray is to have it where you can actually get to it right away," said Cook. "All too often we see people carrying bear spray on their backpack. That’s awkward in a surprise, frightening situation. You want to make sure you have it where you can get to it quickly. Probably on your hip or your chest.”
Once you can grab it quickly, you need to know when and how to deploy it.
“In terms of actually using bear spray we’re creating a cloud between ourselves and the approaching bear. And we visualize the length of a school bus," said Cook. "Everybody knows how long a school bus is. As soon as the animal is within a school bus length of us, we create a cloud. We put our finger through the loop. We put our thumb in front of the safety. We take the safety off, then we probably do a two or three second burst, and another one, and another one if we have to. “
This all sounds simple, but with everything west of Billings being considered bear country, 8.1 ounces of prevention is worth avoiding 1,000 pounds of trouble.
“What we want to leave people with is, bear spray saves lives, you don’t have to be accurate, create a cloud between yourself and that animal, do it early enough – a school bus length - as soon as the animal is within a school bus length begin creating your cloud," said Cook. "It's just that easy."