Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pepper Spray, The Porcupine...And Me!


 There is an ongoing controversy that exists amongst factions of the great outdoors.  The more simple minded nature enthusiast  would like to think that pepper spray is the best defense of saving your life against a grizzly bear attack.  Ted Nugent, whom I respect both as a musician and a red blooded patriotic American, would support the firearm, or, for the liberal minded, what is commonly referred to as, a 'gun'.  I personally don't take sides on the issue.  I carry a very big gun when out in the wild or even a simple walk down the road!  When we first arrived, I tried to coax my wife into carrying a big gun.  But it was not to be!  Not so much because she is an anti gunner, but more of because she had a hard time seeing herself totting around a hand cannon or strapping a 12ga shotgun over her shoulder.  And, since I am with her most times in the wilderness, it would stand to reason that since I carry a big gun....she doesn't have to!

Funny story.  A couple of years back, she was hiking up a local glacier in the spring.  Parts of ground were still covered with snow, although the weather was perfect.  She had on sandals and short sleeves that day, which caught the attention of a tourist who was taking advantage of the early spring months to trek Alaska.  The comment from him that struck her was not so much his observation to her that she was wearing sandals in the snow, although this did strike her as odd that he was even paying attention enough to mention it to her.  Like she wasn't already aware of it!   But more the question to her, of why she was carrying a fire extinguisher on her hip?!

I recently read an excerpt which caught my attention: 

"Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries."
Two thoughts come to mind in regards to this.  First, is a story....a true story....of where a local man was out mountain biking a wilderness trail with his small dog.  The short of it was, a grizzly came out of the bush, grabbed his dog, and essentially ran off with it in his mouth!  The man, shaken, ran after the bear and upon confronting it doused it with his can of pepper spray.  The bear released the dog, dude grabbed the dog, and ran....the other direction.  Minutes later the pissed off bear re-surfaced and the guy doused it again with the pepper spray.  Once again, this gave him a period of reprieve and he began back down the trail, dog in arm.  To his astonishment, as he heard branches snapping behind him, he realized the bear was tracking them down the trail.  Only problem was, he was out of pepper spray!  Shit!  

Second thought to using pepper spray over a gun.  What way is the wind or breeze blowing?  Oh, your screwed if the bear is on the upwind side of your can!!

The other day I was called out to an multi family dwelling to do a repair.  Upon arrival, all seemed normal.  I walked up the stairs to the top of the narrow enclosed hallway, and entered the unit to the left.  I did my thing and then locked the door an left.  Days later I had to return to finish the work there.  Once again, I walked up the stairs and entered the unit.  This day, I had to leave briefly and returned an hour or so later.  This time though, something came to light upon entering.  You see, when I opened the door, something caught the back draft of the door swinging open and I started to choke out a very dry and instantaneously irritating cough.  Then it dawned on me.  The past two times I entered this unit, the same cough attack happened, only I didn't realize it until now.  And the damned cough didn't go away for quite a while after I left each time.

First thought was, since the unit was vacant, a meth lab or some crooked crap.  Mold was a brief thought, but mold usually is more of a burning feeling in the back of my throat and doesn't affect me as severely as this was.  This was an irritating dry hacking that was really all of a sudden and affected me over a long duration of time.  Come to find out, after the fact, from the property manager who dispatched me, the guy in the unit across the narrow enclosed hallway....did I say, narrow and enclosed hallway?  Anyways, he came out his door a couple weeks back and found an angry porcupine loitering at the neighbors front door, in the small narrow and enclosed hallway...which has no air circulation due to this architectural anomaly!  So he shuts the door, grabs his bear mace, opens the door and sprays the angry porcupine!  Duh!!

Apparently, pepper spray doesn't dissipate anytime soon when applied to angry porcupines, loitering in narrow enclosed hallways.  The porcupine never came back, and who would blame it?!  But the pepper spray didn't leave at all, and the end result for me was that every time I opened the door, the back draft was just enough to blow it up the front of me and into my face.  Or any other unsuspecting sap...and apparently there have been a few, who happened upon the scene.

That night I got home and took off my clothes.  Mindlessly, I tossed them on the entry rug floor and went into the shower.  Later, I picked them up and took them into the laundry room.  It was then, as I started to hack that dry cough again, that I had the revelation that this stuff was probably laced all over my clothes!  My wife had the same revelation later that evening when she walked into the laundry room, realized I had gotten side tracked by the phone earlier, and decided to help me out by starting my laundry!  Ouch!

Note to self: 'when hiking about with a nature enthusiast that prefers bear mace over gunpowder and lead, be aware of the direction the wind is blowing when encountering a bear!'  Distance can be a good friend to you in a breeze!