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National Park Superintendents Have Authority To Allow Bear Spray


National park superintendents have the authority to override a ban on bear spray in their parks. Counter Assault photo.

While federal regulations seemingly prohibit bear spray in national parks outside of Alaska, park superintendents have the authority to override that ban within their parks, according to officials at Grand Teton National Park.

"Superintendent's commonly further define and/or clarify park-specific rules and regulations that are applicable to their park unit through a legal instrument called the 'Superintendent's Compendium,' said Grand Teton spokeswoman. "The Superintendent's Compendium is the legal document that Grand Teton NP uses to address and define the appropriate possession, and use, of bear pepper spray.

"Use of bear pepper spray to defend oneself from a threatening wildlife encounter is legal in Grand Teton according to the current Superintendent's Compendium which states, 'Bear pepper spray may be carried by individuals within Grand Teton National Park for the strict purpose of protecting oneself or others from bodily harm against aggressive wildlife," she continued. "Bear pepper spray must be registered with the EPA and individual states. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as "Bear Pepper Spray" and it must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.

"Furthermore, no person will be cited or contacted by park rangers if they are carrying --and if they ever need to deploy--bear pepper spray as a recommended use while traveling in the park's backcountry. Carrying bear pepper spray is not an illegal activity in Grand Teton National Park," said Ms. Skaggs.


I would never go into Glacier National Park without a can of counter assault and it is encouraged as the only safe way to save your life in an encounter. There is talk of lifting the gun restriction here, so I would rather have pepper seasoned bears over dead bears. Keep the spray and use it wisely.

Thank you for the update.

Based upon this comment and correspondence I have received from the GSMNP even though it is allowed in a national park on a park by park basis, it is still illegal to have Bear Spray in the GSMNP until the superintendent decides to allow it.

It would be wise for the NPS to have an official list of parks that do and do not allow bear spray accessible to the general public. One must really wonder such a list does not exist. This can't be the first time the question has come up.

2 people (unsubstantiated reputation of these sources) claim that phone calls to the backcountry office at the GSMNP questioning the use of bear spray resulted in different answers claiming NON aerosol bear spray (an oxymoron statement if I ever heard one) is legal.

My last sets of correspondence sent to the park have remained unanswered but I will update my site in 24 hours regardless if my correspondences are answered or not.

The official word from the GSMNP is that the superintendent can not no change the rule:

"The Superintendent does not have the discretion to authorize the possession or use of a weapon for this particular purpose."

The full written official statement on the subject released by the park can be seen here:

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