Pepper spray is OK to fend off human or bear attacks

I recently bought a bear spray to protect me and my girl from unwanted attacks. (It's never happened, but my motto is be prepared.) This is a super-sized version of a pocket pepper spray. If we were threatened by bad humans, can I legally use this against them, or would I go to jail because they were just bad people and not bad bears?

— Richard G., Shady Cove

Richard, we sincerely hope you and your girl will never face attack by either human or bear. However, in the event that you should face an attack, you would be legally entitled to unload your bear spray on either species.

"The use of bear spray to defend a person can be legally used as long as that person has a reasonable belief that the use of force is warranted for self defense," said Andrea Carlson, spokeswoman for the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

The exact law is Oregon Revised Statute 161.205. You can read it yourself at

Better yet, you won't cause any permanent harm by pulling the trigger on a can of bear spray, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Bear spray in derived from jalapeño seed oil, said Clayton Barber, ODFW wildlife biologist. It's biodegradable, and in some cases spraying it can be more effective than shooting a bear with a firearm, Barber said. The effects usually last a half-hour and are painful, as anyone who's ever sliced a jalapeño and then rubbed their eyes knows.

"I would recommend in a life-threatening situation, if you have bear spray at your disposal, use it," Barber said.

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