Webinar presenter Lynsey White answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Solving Problems with Bears and Cougars. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Does bear spray work on cougars?
Lynsey White: Yes, and sorry – I should have mentioned that. Yes, there’s been a lot of evidence that bear spray does work on cougars. So it would definitely be a good idea to have bear spray with you anytime you’re recreating in an area with bears and/or cougars around.
Audience Question: Do you have a conference or a book you can recommend about conflict with coyotes?
Lynsey White: Yes, our website www.humanesociety.org/coyotes has a lot of great information about solving conflicts with coyotes, including a template coyote management plan. Coyote conflicts are my specialty, so if you have any questions about coyotes, I would be happy to follow up with you.
Audience Question: Do you know whether some of your photos of the cougars on your slides came from photography who used game farms?
Lynsey White: No, actually all of the photos used in my presentation came from the HSUS’s photo library, and we have a very strict policy that we only use photos that are taken from animals in the wild and in some cases from our animal care centers. So, they all have been vetted to make sure they did not come from game farms.
Host: Well, thank you, Kelly, for asking that question. Because I know, I had no idea about the policy and why you have those policies at HSUS. So that is fantastic.
Lynsey White: It’s a good question because, yes, a lot of pictures you will find online do come from game farms. And so that’s something we pay a lot of attention to.
Audience Question: What happens when you play dead with black bears? Are they going to start gnawing on you?
Lynsey White: Another thing that I meant to mention (that we have to remember) is that bears are all individuals. They’re all different animals, just like people, with different personalities and tendencies. How a bear will respond in a certain situation depends not only on the circumstances of the situation, but also the background, experiences, and personality of the bear.
In general, black bears do not attack. If you’re faced with them, you want to walk away; you don’t want to fall to the ground and play dead. But there are very rare instances of black bears that have attacked people for predatory reasons. And so, yes, if that was the case, and you play dead, then they may start eating you. So that’s why you want to fight back.
Audience Question: As police officers, we carry OC spray. Is that effective on bears?
Lynsey White: Are you talking about pepper spray?
Host: I believe that’s the OC spray is the same as pepper spray, correct me if I’m incorrect detective.
Lynsey White: Pepper spray is not as effective as bear spray, but if it’s all you have, it’s worth trying!
Audience Question: If you have a gun and bear spray, but the bear spray doesn’t work. Will it help to shoot into the ground to scare the bear away?
Lynsey White: Again, you know, all bears are different, and it’s hard to say how any particular bear will react in a given situation. In preparing for this, I read a lot of books and information from Stephen Herrero (an expert on bear attacks), and he gave a lot of examples where people have shot a gun into the air as a bear was approaching, or even shot the bear, but the bear kept coming towards them. It seems that if a bear is intent on attacking, even shooting them and making contact sometimes will not stop the bear, unless you shoot them in exactly the right spot. But there have been other times that shooting a gun into the air has scared a bear away. Bear spray, however, if used correctly, will stop a bear in his tracks. I realize in your scenario, the bear spray didn’t work, so, in that example, I think, sure, try shooting the gun, use whatever you have. But if you’re trying to decide between working bear spray or a gun, I would definitely choose the bear spray.
Audience Question: I know you said we shouldn’t feed wild animals that there are times when there are a lot of wildfires, and we’ll sometimes hear folks say to put up buckets of water for wildlife on the outer perimeter of our property. If we have neighborhoods in more rural areas, is this something we really should do?
Lynsey White: Yeah. That’s a question that I’ve struggled with before, because, in general, we recommend putting water out for animals, and especially in a situation like that, or when there’s a big heatwave. But, yes, water can attract wildlife, and there have been occasions where wildlife like coyotes are attracted to neighborhoods because of water. So, again, I hate to keep saying this, but it depends. But I think it depends on how serious the conflicts are and what the outcome could be. But I think I would give a cautious yes, it’s okay to leave water out, but if it starts causing conflicts, then you may have to stop.
Audience Question: It looks like bear spray has 2% or so of capsaicin and the OC tends to be higher with five or 10%. So, if that capsaicin is the active ingredient that actually causes that bear to go away, OC actually has a higher percentage.
Lynsey White: I am not sure about the capsaicin concentrations, but the important difference between bear spray and pepper spray is that pepper spray can only spray about a maximum of 10 feet away, while bear spray can spray up to 30 feet away. That extra 20 feet is very important when you’re dealing with a bear!
Audience Question: Regarding electric fencing to protect livestock, do you have a guide or a resource that can suggest how to properly protect that enclosure with electric fencing?
Lynsey White: Yes, we do. One of the attachments for this webinar is our Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution Guide, and that gives some details about electric fencing. We also have some more technical information about that. If you want to e-mail me, I can share that with you.
Audience Question: With reference to the hard release with bears. Do the rubber bullets or beanbag ammunition hurt the bear?
Lynsey White: Well, they will hurt a little bit, although bears have pretty thick fur and skin, so it hurts less than it may appear. The beanbags and rubber bullets hurt them just enough to teach them to avoid the area, but not enough to harm them or injure them.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Solving Problems with Bears and Cougars.