Learn about living with bears; creating bear smart communities; recreating in bear country; bear safety at work; and managing bears (for wildlife officials).


NOTE: This section is geared toward professional wildlife managers, but it also contains a great deal of good information that may be useful for members of the general public. But, please do not approach bears without the proper training and tools.

Noise Deterrents

officer using noise deterrents to move a bear offNoise deterrents work by making a loud, unpleasant sound that causes the bear to be uneasy and move away. Noise deterrents are advantageous if you are a long distance away from the bear. Furthermore, they cause neither harm nor injury to the bear when correctly used.

In some cases, noise deterrents do not work either because the bear has habituated to human noise or because it has no natural fear of the noise. For example, a habituated bear is very unlikely to respond to a vehicle siren if officers remain in the vehicle. Unlike human dominance techniques which speak the language of the bear, a bear may have to be taught that noise deterrents are followed by an unpleasant or negative situation. However, once a bear makes the association, an officer may only have to cock his shotgun to make the bear leave.

Noisemakers and repellants that are all bark and no bite don’t usually keep bears at bear for long. – Linda Masterson in Living with Bears (pg 95)

To avoid habituating the bear to one sound, officers should not only vary the types of noise deterrents they use on a single bear, but also use them judiciously. Using noise deterrents in combination with human dominance techniques increases the effectiveness of aversion efforts and ensures that the noise deterrent is associated with people.

For guidelines on the proper use of noise deterrents, please download “Responding to Human-Black-Bear Conflicts” and refer to section 8.4.5.

Air Horn / Vehicle Siren / Vehicle Loud Speaker

Vehicle loud speakers can be used to amplify your voice as you approach the scene. Air horns and vehicle sirens emit approximately 80-120 decibels of sound. They can be effective when used in conjunction with human dominance techniques to move a bear off. Since no explosive is involved, these tools can be safely used in dry conditions.

There are compact and easy to to carry air horns on the market today. Click here more more info.

Signal Cartridges, Bangers and more

Signal cartridges (bangers, flares and whistling screamers) are practical, inexpensive, easy-to-use and very effective bear deterrents. Signal cartridges can be fired from pen launchers or pistols. Pistols are most often used by wildlife officers because they can carry multiple rounds and are safer.

Bangers – the most common banger in the pen launcher style due to it’s compact size, ease of use and higher level of safety. The flight pattern of the banger is consistent and when fired, travels about 23 to 27 m (75 to 90 ft) before exploding with a loud bang. Another very effective banger is a 15 mm cartridge fired from a .22 calibre single or multi-shot launcher.

The disadvantages of these bangers, used in a single shot revolver, are that they are slow to reload and cumbersome to use in low light conditions. As such, multi shot launchers are generally preferred over single launchers because they can be pre-loaded with blanks.

Because they use explosives, bangers must be used very carefully under dry conditions. Care should also be taken as the cartridges will ricochet if they hit an obstruction such as a tree branch.

bangers and launchers to deter bearsTo avoid injury to bears, bangers should only be fired from the proper distance so that they do NOT hit the bear. All shooters must know the optimal range of their rounds as they can cause death (Hunt 2003).

Blanks can also be used alone, without the pyro cartridges, as they deliver an extremely loud sound effect by themselves. Using just the blank eliminates concerns of fire risk, ricochet and injury to the bear.

Screamers and Whistlers are generally not recommended as their flight pattern is very erratic and they are a higher risk in dry conditions due to the fire hazard.

pistol that loads with bear deterrents like bangers and launchersPistols come in single-shot, double-shot, revolver and semi-automatic models. The single-shot Record, which uses 6 mm regular blanks, is the most popular and economical model. Multi-shot revolvers and semi-automatics hold up to 10 rounds and can launch more than one cartridge. Quick draw holsters provide fast deployment and easy, safe carrying. The launchers can be pre-loaded with blanks (primers), drawn from holster and loaded with cartridges as required. Also, the rapid firing of emergency signal flares can be accomplished by these launchers. These products provide the first step in non-lethal bear control.

Bangers and pen/pistol launchers with cartridges can be purchased from Kodiak Wildlife Products Inc.

12 Gauge Crackers and Whistle Crackers

12 gauge noise deterrents for bearsThe cracker and whistle cracker are 12-gauge shotgun loads that travel about 100 m (335 ft) and explode with a loud bang, the whistler cracker also emits a loud screeching noise during flight. Their flight patterns are consistent. They are used for working bears at a long distance.

The design of the 12-gauge cracker and whistle cracker requires low velocity, and as a result, the over-powder wad may stick in the barrel of the shotgun. In order to prevent barrel obstruction, an un-choked shotgun must be used and the barrel of the gun must be checked after each shot to ensure there is no blockage.

Another concern with using 12-gauge cracker shells is that if they are used at too close a range, they will penetrate the skin of the bear and explode internally. There is also a risk of forest fire if the surrounding area is dry.

12 Gauge crackers, whistlers and other deterrent products can be purchased from Kodiak Wildlife Products Inc.

Physical Deterrents

using a sling shot and marbles to deter a black bearPhysical deterrents include water, stones, paintball marker, bear spray, bean bags and rubber bullets. They work by creating pain and discomfort that a bear learns to avoid. Bean bags and rubber bullets should be used only as a last resort when dealing with very persistent black bears because most bears will have been averted from the undesirable behaviour before this level of force is necessary. Physical deterrents are usually necessary when working with grizzly bears, but should only be used when proper safety precautions are in place.

Extreme caution must be exercised with all types of projectiles. Improper use or firing at too close a range has resulted in serious injury and death (Hunt 1985). Projectiles must be used carefully around humans for the same reasons. Physical deterrents should be accompanied by human dominance techniques; they should not be used passively.

For guidelines on the proper use of physical deterrents, please download “Responding to Human-Black-Bear Conflicts” and refer to section 8.5.8.

Paintball Marker

Paintball markers to deter bearsPaintball markers can also be used as a deterrent, avoiding potential injury to the bear (when shot away from the face). They are particularly useful when used to move bears in a certain direction. Because the paint balls are released in a continuous stream, the officer can send a steady message to the bear as to the direction s/he wants the bear to travel (or more accurately, the direction the bear wants to avoid).

Note: Bears are attracted to paintball residue, therefore the area must be cleaned up after the operation.

Bear Spray

Although bear spray is largely used as a defensive tool in the wilderness, it can also be used as a deterrent to create a negative experience for the bear and as back-up protection when conducting aversion techniques. Bear spray contains a red pepper oil called capsaicin, a derivative of cayenne peppers. Capsaicin causes intense irritation of sensory nerve endings, but does not cause blisters because it has little effect on capillaries or other blood vessels (Rogers 1984). The result is pain, but only temporary. Toxicity tests on capsaicin have shown no lasting harm to the skin or eyes of people or other animals.

Bear spray is most effective when working a black bear at distances of less than 3-6 m (10-20 ft), when other tools may cause penetration. To be effective, the spray must get into the eyes and nose of the bear. It can be used in a wide variety of situations (e.g. to evict bears from beneath buildings or to get them out of garbage containers). It should be noted that bear spray may temporarily incapacitate a bear and care must be taken in and around pedestrian or vehicular traffic, as you don’t want to debilitate a bear that is about to run into traffic or bystanders.

Research suggests that bear spray on objects or the ground may actually act as an attractant to bears. Since bear spray is a stable weather-resistant compound, it may retain its attractant properties for days or months. Bear spray should be cleaned from objects and the ground after use to avoid attracting bears (Smith 1998). Canisters, that have been fired, should also be cleaned or stored in bear-proof locations.

Bear Spray should not be used inside homes or vehicles as it can cause permanent damage. Also when using it in a developed area, caution must be taken not to have spray drift into a schoolyard or window of a home.

Warning: the spray is explosive and extremely flammable and should be transported in an appropriate carrier. When transporting bear spray, always make sure the safety is securely in place and will not fall out. Bear spray should never be transported inside the passenger area of any vehicle or airplane unless in a fully sealed, enclosed container.

To review the guidelines for the use of bear spray, download Responding to Human-Black-Bear Conflicts and refer to section 8.5.5.

To purchase: contact Kodiak Wildlife Products Inc.

12 Gauge Bean Bags, Rubber Slugs

12 guage bean bags to deter bears12 Gauge Bean Bags

The 12 gauge bean bag is a shotgun round that discharges a 2.5 cm (1 in) fabric bag filled with lead shot, with a muzzle velocity of about 90 m (300 ft)/sec. Caution should be exercised, as penetration or injury can generally occur if discharged at a distance of less than 10 m (30 ft), but individual product specifications should be checked. The maximum effective range is usually 25 m (85 ft) and the accuracy is reliable.

If a physical deterrent seems warranted, bean bags are recommended over rubber slugs, as the chance of injuring an animal or bystanders is significantly lower. ALWAYS use bean bags over rubber slugs for small or young bears.

12 Guage Rubber Slugs to deter bears12 Gauge Rubber Slugs

The 12 gauge rubber slug is a shotgun round that discharges a 73 grain rubber baton. The muzzle velocity is 220 m (738 ft)/sec and extreme caution must be exercised, as penetration or injury can occur when used with smaller bears or if it is discharged at a distance less than 25 m (85 ft). The maximum effective range is usually 75 m (250 ft) and the accuracy is reliable. Check individual product specifications as they almost always vary from one slug to another.

There are various types of rubber slugs on the market ranging from rubber to hard plastic. When purchasing rubber slugs for use with bears, do not buy the hard plastic slug as a higher probability of penetration is associated with its use. Check all rubber slugs for hardening – they do harden over time (particularly if stored at temperatures of 1 C or less) and should be disposed of if they have become rigid as they can cause severe injury or death to bears.

To ensure the safety of bystanders, any projectile should be handled as if it were a lethal round, taking line of fire as well as a safe backdrop into account. It is further advisable to purchase rubber slugs that are a different colour than lethal rounds. Also, never mix lethal rounds and rubber in the same shotgun!

To purchase 12 gauge bean bags and rubber slugs, contact Kodiak Wildlife Products by phone at 1-866-356-3425 or email at sales@kodiakcanada.com or visit their website.