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Hikers should read ‘Bear Attacks’ tips

SHARE Hikers should read ‘Bear Attacks’ tips
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TRUE STORIES OF BEAR ATTACKS: WHO SURVIVED AND WHY, by Mike Lapinski, Westwinds Press, 224 pages, $14.95.

This could be the best new book about grizzly and black bear attacks. After all, who better to author such a book that an outdoorsman who has had his own close calls with bears?

It was Mike Lapinski's close call with a grizzly while hiking in Glacier National Park in 1998 that led to his superb research for this paperback book. Another hiker died three days later from a bear attack in the same area.

This is a no-nonsense approach to such attacks and lacks the sensational approach others have taken. It also addresses the value of both human and animal life.

"The purpose of this book," Lapinski writes, "is to encourage travelers in bear country to carry bear pepper spray — not only for their own welfare, but also for the welfare of the bear, because it's the bear who usually ends up dead if there's trouble."

Lapinski offers two key tips about hikers and bears: "A black bear sow with cubs has the potential to be every bit as dangerous as a grizzly" — and fast hikers, who sometimes move at 5 mph, should slow down in bear country to give themselves a chance to prevent a surprise confrontation.

The book's second chapter details four scenarios that trigger bear attacks — a bear is startled; a bear is guarding its food cache; a bear is defending its young; or a bear is predatory.

Lapinski also writes that a grizzly's defensive-aggressive mechanism can be triggered in an attack on humans that may last only a few seconds, though with deadly results.

The author treats in detail the types of bear pepper spray that may be used against bears most effectively. He states that humans should never spray while the bear is more than 30 feet away, adding, "Nothing is 100 percent effective against the sudden, furious rush of an enraged bear — not a gun, not even bear pepper spray. The very best defense in bear country is to understand why bears attack and to avoid those situations that precipitate a confrontation." He also notes that bear pepper spray is not like insect repellent — it should not be sprayed on equipment or clothing.

Lapinski's own survey of hikers in Glacier and Yellowstone found that 90 percent carried no protection against bears while in the wild.

He also points out that shooting an attacking bear is no guarantee of stopping it. Although mortally wounded, the bear may remain alive long enough to kill or seriously injure the shooter.

This is a superb book for anyone who travels in bear country.


E-mail: lynn@desnews.com