Yellowstone’s sole bear spray rental kiosk opened yesterday in the Canyon Village Visitor Center.
Bear Aware, founded last summer by hiker/outdoor enthusiast Sally Vering, aims to insure visitors (especially hikers and campers) against bear attacks. Indeed, although the National Park Service recommends visitors carry bear spray (and hike in groups of three or more), only an estimated 14 percent carry spray. Further, 60 percent of hikers either walk alone or just with another person.
Unlike traditional retail outlets, Bear Aware’s rental stall (which carries UDAP Pepper Power® 9.2 oz. Magnum Bear Spray) circumvents many hurdles and hang-ups people may have with packing bear spray: it’s relatively costly ($40 to $60), can’t be brought on airplanes, and cannot be mailed by the U.S. Postal Service. But above all, Vering’s impetus to found Bear Aware was safety, according to a Bear Aware press release:
Sally Vering founded Bear Aware last summer to help park visitors stay safe. She believes that carrying bear spray is like wearing a seatbelt or a bike helmet. “Though the odds are slim you’ll have to use it,” she said, “not carrying bear spray can end in disaster.”
The Bear Aware staff also reminds park visitors that they are in the heart of bear country. Last August, a solo hiker was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone. The attack marked the sixth fatal grizzly bear mauling since 2010 in the Yellowstone region. None of the victims carried bear-deterrent spray. During that same time period, two grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone National Park were stopped by hikers using bear spray.
“Everyone wants to have a safe vacation, and carrying bear spray can help that happen,” states Sam Azizi, Operations Manager of Bear Aware. “Before renting spray, customers watch our safety video and are provided empty training canisters so they can familiarize themselves with the product.”
Although the company is rather recent, according to the Bear Aware about page, Vering’s decision to open Bear Aware is rooted in an 2009 experience, when she encountered a grizzly sow and two cubs as she was driving on a forest service road. Even behind the wheel of a car, Vering felt it was a brush with death.
The Bear Aware Canyon Village visitor center kiosk is open seven days a week. In addition, visitors can drop off cans throughout the Park, at the Sinclair gas stations in Mammoth, Tower-Roosevelt, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village, Old Faithful, and Madison campground. Below are the rental rates:
• 24 hour: $9.25
• 3 to 7 days: $28
• 8 to 14 days: $32
• For purchase: $49.99
In light of recent bear attacks and the NPS’ centennial, which is expected to draw a record number of visitors, the NPS is rolling out a like-minded awareness campaign aimed at getting people to use bear spray while hiking/camping. Entitled “A Bear Doesn’t Care,” the campaign features NPS employees and local celebrities, as well as information on proper bear spray use and backcountry etiquette.