Bear spray, yes or no?

Worth the read

Craig Medred

bear attacks Illustration from the study “Human behaviour can trigger large carnivore attacks in developed countries”

In the wake of a bear attack in which bear spray didn’t work, in a world with animal attacks trending upward, more than a few Alaskans are pondering the effectiveness of the popular pepper spray which had come to be considered the be-all to end-all in bear protection in the 49th state.

Twenty-seven-year-old Erin Johnson from Anchorage died June 19 after she and a coworker were attacked by a predatory black bear while doing environmental studies in brushy forest about five miles from the state’s largest underground gold mine. 

Johnson’s coworker sprayed the bear with a canister of red-pepper bear deterrent. The capsicum-based sprays have generally worked in other cases, but the spray failed to drive off this bear, which was later shot by a mine employee near Johnson’s body.

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Size matters

Craig Medred

bird bear A Bird Ridge black bear/Andy Baker photo


Patrick “Jack” Cooper was a 16-year-old boy killed by a predatory black bear, and now some want to blame him for his own death.

There is little doubt running from the bear was a mistake. Turning your back on a predator is invariably a bad thing. What predators desire is to approach from behind so their prey cannot fight back.

In this case, however, it is worth asking a simple question: Would it have made any difference if young Cooper had stood his ground?

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Bearly ignorant bliss

I’ll be reblogging Craig more, as it will remind me to read him and he deserves a wider audience.

Craig Medred

Rob Foster Black Bear A predatory black bear/Rob Foster photo


Alaska’s mainstream media has dialed up the perfect solution to the fear gripping the 49th state in the wake of two extremely rare, fatal bear attacks in two days in June: Ignorance.

“It’s good to be prepared, but training to people to deal with bear incidents creates fear,” wrote an Alaska Dispatch News columnist, who blamed other writers plus local, state and federal officials for this fear.

“Outdoor writers and land managers also increase fear of bears by teaching preparedness,” he concluded.

It was tempting to just make a joke of such nonsense and draft a “Top 10” list of things we should stop teaching. At first it started with boating safety, but….

Thirty-five-thousand to 40,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. every year.  More than 75 of them died in accidents on Alaska roadways last year. We could save…

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Bear ignored spray

Spray is good, but not a magic talisman even when used correctly

Craig Medred

Rob Foster Black Bear The predatory black bear that pursued a Canadian for 45 minutes/Rob Foster photo

Updated on June 23 to include other bear spray failures

A black bear that killed a 27-year-old Anchorage woman in central Alaska on Monday appears to have hunted down the woman and a colleague while they were conducting environmental surveys for the Pogo Mine.

The bear jumped one of the women from behind before she had any chance react, and then moved on to the woman’s colleague, their employer, himself a wildlife biologist, said Thursday.

An attempt to drive the bear off with pepper spray failed.  The efficacy of pepper spray has been questioned in other cases involving predatory black bears.

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Down & out in AK

This is what journalism was and should be…

Craig Medred


Yet more trouble appears on the horizon for the already troubled business of journalism in Alaska.

Rumors have been swirling for weeks that yet more downsizing is coming at the Alaska Dispatch News – the state’s biggest, brawniest and, by sheer force of numbers, best news organization.

And Monday came a “Reader Survey” tucked away on page A-4 of the Alaska’s largest newspaper asking readers in little-bitty type to tell editors “what you absolutely can’t live without in (a) newspaper…with no choice but to produce a leaner print paper.”

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“The Sociology of U.S. Gun Culture” Article Published and Available Free Online

A needed entry for the field.

Gun Culture 2.0

I am very happy to report that my second academic article on gun culture was published today in the journal Sociology Compass (my first was on religion and gun ownership).

Thanks to a generous grant from Wake Forest University’s ZSR Library and the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs, “The Sociology of U.S. Gun Culture” is available as a free download from the journal’s website.

In the paper I argue that social scientists have been so concerned with the criminology and epidemiology of guns that there is no sociology of guns, per se. To help develop a sociology of guns that is centered on the legal use of guns by lawful gun owners, I give a brief historical overview of gun culture in the United States, review the small research literature on recreational gun use, highlight the rise of Gun Culture 2.0, and offer some thoughts on directions for…

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Revisiting Col. Cooper’s “Principles of Personal Defense”

Gun Culture 2.0

What better way to pass the time flying West to observe a 250 Pistol Course at Gunsite Academy than revisiting Principles of Personal Defense by The Colonel, Jeff Cooper?

Originally published in 1972 and again in 1989, my copy is the 2006 Paladin Press edition with a foreword by the late Louis Awerbuck. In the Preface, Cooper says he re-read the book and “felt no need to change anything of importance” (p. 11). But the Preface is undated, so it’s not clear whether it was written for the 1989 or 2006 edition.

In any event, here are some brief snippets from the book I found interesting in 2017.

First, although I have usually heard the analogy made to a piano, the statement commonly attributed to Col. Cooper is found here as follows:

“You are no more armed because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician because you…

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