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  • Likelihood of being killed or injured by a grizzly bear while defending yourself with a gun: 50%.

  • Likelihood of being killed or injured by the same when using bear spray: 8%.

(Outside, March 2012, p. 37)

The same pattern holds true when it comes to using a gun to defend yourself from animal attacks. While many people keep guns around to protect them from aggressive animals such as bears, the data suggests that the gun itself is more dangerous than any animals you might encounter. Another Canadian study turned up similar results to the one described above: When it comes to bears in general, you’re twice as likely to survive a bear attack when armed with bear spray versus a firearm. (Outdoor Life, March 2013, p. 8)

There are a couple of reasons why trying to defend yourself from an animal attack with a gun can backfire:

  1. The escalation principle can also work with wild animals. Bear spray may annoy a bear, whereas a bullet wound pushes it into fight or flight mode. So if the first shot doesn’t bring the animal down, it may see little choice but to attack you.

  1. You might accidentally shoot yourself or someone else in the process, which again, happens more often than you might think.

Steve Stevenson and his buddy Ty Bell were bear hunting on the border between Montana and Idaho. They shot at what they thought was a black bear. It turned out to be a Grizzly. As they were following the trail of blood, the wounded animal leapt out and attacked.

When the bear attacked Bell, his buddy Stevenson started yelling at it in an effort to distract it. It worked, but then the bear turned on Stevenson. Bell managed to retrieve the gun and used it to try and save his friend. When the dust had settled, the bear was dead, but so was his friend.

Bell was initially hailed as a hero for trying to save his friend. But when the medical examination was performed a different story emerged: Stevenson hadn’t actually died from any injuries the bear inflicted upon him. He had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest. (Outdoor Life, March 2013, p. 33)

Meanwhile, many of those lacking a gun who are attacked by predators manage to fend off their attacker. A teenager in Colorado was able to escape a mountain lion attack by kicking it in the head. The animal leapt upon her while she was checking a flat tire. She suffered cuts to her shoulder and leg. (USA Today, 10-21-2010, p. 6A)

One woman in Montana managed to fight off a bear with a Zucchini. She was in her yard when she spotted an adult black bear running toward her dog, Brin. So she yelled to attract its attention and kicked it in the foreleg. When the bear turned back toward her dog, she hurled a 14-inch zucchini at its head, causing the bear to lope away into the woods. “You don’t think,” says the woman. “You do what you have to do.” (The Week, Oct. 8, 2010, p. 16)

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