If you have a trip planned to Yosemite National Park this summer, go ahead and leave the bear spray at home. It’s not allowed within park boundaries. Bear spray is actually considered a weapon according to the park’s regulations.
According to Yosemite’s official website: “the possession, use, or discharge of pepper spray (including bear spray), pellet guns, and BB guns in Yosemite National Park is prohibited.”
Rangers from Yosemite say there just isn’t a need for the spray. The park doesn’t have grizzlies (the main reason someone would carry bear spray in the first place). Even though about 500 black bears do roam the park, Yosemite has never reported a bear-on-human attack. To prevent public encounters with bears, park staff use GPS tracking and redirection techniques with good success.
When BACKPACKER Magazine posted about Yosemite’s anti-bear spray sentiments on its Facebook page in 2013, readers had a wide range of responses. Some, like Tanner Broughton, agree with the regulation, noting that if people “practice proper Bear country etiquette, you won’t need any bear spray.”
Britty Towell-Hughes points out that “If you are doing everything right—proper food storage, staying on trail, camping in the appropriate areas, etc.—you won’t need any of that (bear spray) because you won’t see a bear. Now, if you do come across a bear, chances are it’s human error and not a random bear sighting/attack. We love to blame nature for acting like nature. Smarten up, weapon down, respect wildlife.”
But others, like Erin Schultz worry that their safety could be compromised if they’re forced to hike without bear spray. After describing herself as a “smaller-sized person who hikes alone,” Schultz goes on to say that “Following all the rules doesn’t guarantee one’s safety. Yes, proper food storage is important, but it’s completely possible to surprise a bear and have it attack you.”
Facebook user Chris Winter sums up the decree: “They (the officials at Yosemite) are more concerned about people control, not bears.”