Bear sprayaccidentally discharged inside Grand Tetons visitor center

by Kraig Becker (RSS feed) on Sep 13th 2011 at 10:00AM

Visitors to the Grand Tetons National Park visitor center got avery unpleasant surprise recently when a can of bear spray was inadvertentlydischarged inside the building. The incident prompted an immediateevacuation of the entire facility, as the potent pepper spray soon spreadthroughout the center.

Apparently, one of the park's rangers was preparing for a morning program inthe visitor center's auditorium when a man entered the room and quickly grabbeda seat without first taking a look at the chair. In doing so, he sat downdirectly on the can of
bear spray, releasing its contents throughout theroom, and sending the occupants scrambling for the emergency exits.

The powerful chemical didn't stay contained to the auditorium for long however,as the ventilation system soon pumped it throughout the rest of the building.By the time an emergency response team arrived on scene, more than 20 peoplewere suffering side effects from exposure to the pepper spray.

Bear spray is an incredibly potent version of the same pepper spray that iscommonly used by police or for self defense by individuals. In this casehowever, it has to be strong enough to take down a 500 pound
bearrather than a 200 pound person. The spray is actually an oil that is blastedout via an aerosol, and when this particular can went off inside the visitorcenter, it not only spread throughout the facility, itended up contaminatingmerchandise in the gift shop, including t-shirts and stuffed animals.

Anyone who has done any hiking in the American west knows that bears are apotential danger, particularly in
nationalparks such as the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone.In many places, bear spray is actually mandatory gear before heading into thebackcountry, and the ranger in this story was likely preparing to instructvisitors on its use. Unfortunately, they received first hand experience in justhow powerful the spray actually is in a way that is usually only reserved forthe bears.