Carrying a gun in bear country doesn't mean you're more protected in the event of a bear encounter, according to new research out of Brigham Young University.
A study led by BYU biologist and bear expert Tom S. Smith found that firing a gun is no more effective in keeping people from injury or death during bear attacks than not using a firearm.
"It really isn't about the kind of gun you carry, it's about how you carry yourself," said Smith, who has researched bears in the field for 20 years. "We need to respect an animal that could potentially take our lives."
Smith and his colleagues analyzed 269 incidents of bear-human conflicts in Alaska for the study, appearing in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. Those incidents involved 444 people and 357 bears, 300 of which were brown bears.
The researchers found no statistical difference in the outcome (no injury, injury or fatality) when they compared those who used their gun in an aggressive encounter (229 instances) to those who had firearms but did not use them (40 instances).
The implication is that firearms should not be a substitute for doing the right things to avoid unwanted encounters in bear habitat. Although a shooter may be able to kill an aggressive bear, injuries to the shooter and others also can occur.
This finding is especially relevant given the 2010 law allowing guns in national parks.
"We're seeing more and more people in bear country with guns," Smith said. "Yet guns, for most people, are not their best option. You don't even need a gun if you behave appropriately."
Behaving appropriately, according to the authors, means following the conventional wisdom for avoiding bear encounters:
"This study provid
|Contact: Todd Hollingshead|
Brigham Young University