Thursday, July 7, 2011

Remember The Criticism of Allowing Guns In National Parks?

From the July 7, 2011 Washington Post:
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — A killer grizzly is roaming Yellowstone National Park’s backcountry after mauling a man who apparently surprised the female bear and its cubs while hiking with his wife, in the park’s first fatal grizzly attack in 25 years.
Okay, this is rare--the first fatal grizzly bear attack in Yellowstone since 1996.  But who wants to be the rare exception?  The next time I visit Yellowstone, I will have my .44 Magnum revolver with me, loaded with the 240 grain solids.  This is not the ideal choice for grizzly bear self-defense, but it isn't like you can carry hand grenades or one megawatt lasers.

UPDATE: I mentioned a government report in the comments.  The full citation is William R. Meehan and John Thilenius, Safety in Bear Country: Protective Measures and Bullet Performance at Short Range, Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-152, Portland, OR, U..S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.  I have a copy at home; I should try and find it and scan it in, since it does not seem to online anywhere.

UPDATE 2: Yes it is online!  And they refer to .30-06 as a "small caliber rifle."


  1. Don't they have a Bear spray that is basically mace for Bears? I agree we should allow people to have guns in a national park because nature is dangerous but people have to bring at least something to protect themselves if they're afraid of getting caught violating gun laws.

  2. There is a 10% capsicum pepper spray marketed as Bear Spray. In Canada, you aren't allowed pepper spray for self-defense against humans--but Bear Spray is lawful to possess. Of course, if you ever used it on a human being you would not only be in big trouble with the Canadian government, but the risk of killing the attacker goes up.

  3. .44 magnum -- so even the favorite of Diry Harry is insufficient against Griz? I can believe it.
    How about the Ruger Blackhawk in .30 Carbine? I'll have to research that.

    btw, did you know that the Sierra Club bans participants from carrying on Sierra Club activities? That's why, even though I attend some events (what my friend used to call "as a mole"), I won't go to Alaska, Canada, Glacier, or Yellowstone with them.

  4. The National Forest Service published a paper about 1981 called something like "Short-Range Ballistic Performance on Grizzly Bears" in which they addressed the problem that while traditionally, NFS employees who worked in places like Alaska were knowledgeable about guns, many newer employees not only knew nothing about guns, but were positively adverse to them.

    They built a grizzly bear simulator. No, it didn't chase you through the trees: it was a box that simulated bullet penetration into a grizzly bear. They concluded that .44 Magnum with solids was marginally acceptable for short-range self-defense, but the minimum completely reliable solution was .30-06 with 200 grain solids. They were unsure whether 12 gauge shotgun slugs might do the job.

    In practice, there have been a number of incidents where considerably less potent calibers have worked fine. A man shot a grizzly in Denali last year with .45 ACP (and I think something like nine rounds hit the bear), and the bear decided it had better things to do. I saw a documentary about a grizzly/polar bear cross that a man in Alaska killed with an M16. (I suspect the whole magazine!)

  5. Scott, have you ever heard of the difference between black bear scat and grizzly bear scat? Black bear scat has berries in it. Grizzly bear scat has berries, boot laces, flannel and shirt buttons in it and smells of pepper spray.

  6. Well, .30-06 is small caliber compared with stuff like .45-70, .458 WinMag, or .470 Nitro.

    I'm not big enough to shoot that stuff.

  7. How about 454 Casull, 460 S&W , 480 Ruger, etc (using a heavy SWC round)... Too bad pistol grip 12 gauges with slugs or 00 aren't allowed.

    Better be able to handle the recoil of one of those large caliber handguns though. Suggest good grips that you can get a good solid hold on and lots of practice to get used to it (rapid fire practice as that is what you'll need when a bear is charging and you have little time to fire off 6 shots!).

    It will be interesting to hear more about what happened. Often these kinds of events happen from people being stupid and careless about bear awareness (not always but more often than not that is the case). A sow protecting her cubs is the worst (with hungry males protecting their food probably the next worse).

    Maybe all of these hikers should be required to wear noise makers so the bears are more likely to keep their distance.

  8. Best article I've seen thus far on the attack is:

  9. It's interesting that carrying in national parks only started being allowed in 2010. Who was President then? And here I thought President Obama only wanted to take away all your gun rights.

  10. Well, yeah.

    .308 is "small" compared to .338/.375 as "medium" and .4xx for "large"!

    Diameter, not power, after all.

  11. A friend of mine used to go to Alaska on 10-day back country excursions. He always took a .44 magnum revolver, with chambers loaded alternatively with soft-nosed bullets and brass bullets (the latter, I believe, are no longer legal to sell). I asked him why he didn't take a rifle, and he basically said it was too hard to carry along with all the other gear.

    He was lucky enough never to have encountered an angry bear.

  12. The carry in national parks provision was attached to a financial regulation bill that Obama really, really wanted. (That's why it was attached to it.) Also, the National Park Service had already lost one round in the courts about their ban. The bill passed by Congress was actually less severe than what might have been allowed if the matter had continued to work its way up the courts.

    Look, I know that you want to find something good to say about Obama. But this isn't the example. He repeatedly has stated his support for gun bans, but he and his advisers know better than to push for something that would repeat the 1994 mid-term elections.

  13. Right now Obama has to worry about being re-elected and getting more Dems in congress in 2012. If he gets back in then I'd be worried as he then can basically go for anything he might get through (term limits takes care of the future campaigning--for him anyways--problem).

    He buys the view that limits on gun ownership means less brothers in the hood killing each other and less kiddies being accidentally shot (all nonsense, but clearly he buys it).

  14. More details released in the last few days would seem to confirm that it was "city slicker" ignorance about bear country that cost this poor fellow his life. He ran (and then didn't play dead when the sow caught up to him). The wife played dead and survived...