Field geologists can leave the guns at home: BYU study
Having a gun in the field doesn't provide anymore protection during bear encounters than encounters without, according to Tom S. Smith, a Brigham Young University biologist.
Comparing reported bear incidents with groups that were carrying guns and those who were not, Smith found no difference in injury or fatality rates. Rather, the differences were a matter of the group being aware of bears and taking precautions, such as hiking in groups, making noise and avoiding areas of poor visibility where bear may be surprised.
Smith, whose study was announced in early March and is set to be published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, said using a gun as protection in a bear encounter creates a host of problems:
Smith and his co-authors write that using firearms in bear encounters is difficult even for experts due to the need for split-second deployment and deadly accuracy. People should carefully consider their ability to be accurate under duress before carrying a firearm for protection from bears, they write.
“People should consider carrying a non-lethal deterrent such as bear spray,” said Smith, a gun owner himself. “It’s much easier to deploy, it’s less cumbersome and its success rate in these situations is higher than guns.”
In a 2008 study, Smith found that bear spray effectively halted aggressive bear encounters in 92 percent of the cases.