Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Kirsty, Jul 14, 2019.
Hi. Can we pack Bear Spray in our checked luggage or do we have to buy it there?
Not really answering your question but, in East Glacier several years ago I saw a place that "rented" bear spray. Return it unused for the rental fee or you buy it if you use it.
Someone on one of the 2 review sites I often read (either Yelp or Tripadvisor, I forget which of the 2) said that if you stay at Mountain Pine Motel (one of the mom and pop motels just north of Glacier Park Lodge, in East Glacier Park), that they provide bear spray for free to their guests.
I never for sure did find out Amtrak's policy on carrying bear spray, as I didn't try to carry it on the Empire Builder. For whatever reason, assumed they'd probably be similar in policy (banning it, like airlines do) when it came to carrying it in bags. That said, I'd call Amtrak's 800 number, speak to an actual agent and NOT Julie, and ask this question.
Regardless of any Amtrak rules, I'd be really concerned about bear spray going off accidentally in a confined place such as a train, especially a tiny space like a roomette.
We tend to fly when we go to Glacier so we always buy new bear spray. Before we leave we usually give it to friends although the last time we were there we gave it to the hotel in West Glacier that had kindly once loaned us some bear spray. Some people donate their bear spray to the Park Service when they leave. Fortunately we have never had to use it.
It is expensive stuff $30-50 depending on where you get it but it is readily available around the Park. Best prices are usually at the Army/Navy surplus store in Whitefish but that was a few years ago.
The closest thing I see listed under "Prohibited Items" is...
Canisters, tanks or other devices containing propellants
*Oxygen equipment for medical reasons is allowed onboard with restrictions.
I believe aerosol cans would fall under this category.
This prohibition is for both carry on and checked baggage.
At the top of the page...
Any item that is similar to the prohibited items below, even if not specifically mentioned, is also prohibited.
Bear spray is usually considered to be tear gas. It's listed as prohibited in both check-in or carry-on baggage. On top of that, there are various laws that limit the amount of such irritants, and the OP would be transporting it through several states that might have different laws. In California it's limited for non law-enforcement to 2.5 oz unless it's meant to be an "economic poison" - i.e. a pesticide. For this purpose - deterring a bear makes bear spray a pesticide.
Guess Im lucky I havent been in trouble. After summers in the mountains I take a LD trains back to Florida. I carry a backpack and small suitcase. Spray suntan lotion, OFF, who knows whatever other spray and Bear Spray on the side of backpack in plain sight. It is in a snapped holster and has a safety on it. Cant go off by itself but my suntan lotion probably could.
I was lucky once too and flew back with it in my checked luggage on a plane. Had no idea it was against regulations. This was a few weeks before 9/11. Probably couldn't get away with that now.
Ah, so looks like bear spray would have to be prohibited to be carried on Amtrak trains. Even if Amtrak's language about prohibited items, doesn't clearly mention bear spray among all those prohibited items.
There are probably a lot of little things that violate the rules. But who is really going to worry about an 8 oz can of sunscreen with a CO2 propellant or if I've got a can of Reddi Wip? I think they're primarily worried about things that could cause some serious damage such as paintball weapon cartridges.
However, bear spray is considered a weapon in most places. I know it's still not legal to carry in most national parks unless there's an exception made (such as Glacier NP).
Even then I have the feeling that a lot of Amtrak personnel will look at something fairly innocent and just say "put it away". Even bear spray. However, it's clearly something that the rules say aren't allowed on Amtrak.
My interpretation is that any kind of pepper spray would normally be considered a form of tear gas. At least that's the definition in California.
Real bear spray, intended for use on bears, is more potent than tear gas, intended for use on humans. If one of those goes off on a train it's going to cause a lot of problems for anyone in the car. For people with health issues it could be deadly. If they aren't already banned, they should be.
It really depends. There is no single definition for bear spray or civilian/LE pepper spray. The only thing that is consistent is that a bear spray canister is typically larger - maybe in the 8-12 oz size, although that could be said for LE pepper spray.
I've heard some claims that bear spray is of higher OC concentration, as well as claims that it's less. But it's generally assumed to be 1-2%. The main problem is there's a whole lot of different types of personal defense pepper spray that ranges from 0.2% to 10%. Counter Assault says that their bear spray is at the maximum 2% allowed by law, although they don't say what law.
When going through a Ranger's orientation for those about to hike in Glacier NP two years ago, he made a point of telling us not to rely on pepper spray meant to deter an attacker in a dark alley. He pulled out a can of spray that clearly was identified as bear spray on the label, and said this is what would be effective. He even showed us how it works, how it should be holstered, where to aim the spray.
Since I have numerous antibiotic allergies and fear animal bites, I have on one occasion years back taken a 3/4 oz animal repellent spray along in my checked baggage. It was locked and in a double sealed zip bag. Even if the pepper discharged it would have been contained. After reading the rules more closely I now just buy one at my destination and carry that with me. Then I mail it back when done. Its ironic that you can check your rifle or handgun w ammo, bring that along, check it in, and that's OK, but 3/4 oz of pepper animal repellent is most likely not allowed.
I didn't even know that bear spray was a thing. I was only told to keep your distance, stay away from cubs, stand as tall as possible, and make loud noises. If that dosn't work throw rocks near (but not at) the bear and if it still kept approaching you'd shoot if armed or try to weaponize anything in reach and hope for the best. Is that advice still relevant or is it mainly about carrying a spray now? In all honesty death by mauling doesn't sound like a pleasant way to go.
Are you sure about the containment? If it uses compressed gas, that gas can open a lot of plastic bags and zip-loc bags open very easily.
I will say that I've taken bear spray in and out of trains and even to and from Canada without anyone looking it over (and Customs coming in to the US usually looks things over thoroughly). It was this product: https://www.rei.com/product/154930/counter-assault-bear-deterrent-spray-81-fl-oz-2019
This product is California legal. Now, it may have been prohibited on the train, but the product itself is not illegal and if you were caught with it you would like have been asked to throw it out. People carry regular aerosol hair spray on the train all the time and I've never seen anyone investigate that.
At the bottom of the description of the above bear spray, it says
Note: Cannot be carried on commercial airplanes
I would imagine that to be the case on trains also. They used to not allow oxygen tanks on planes (and trains?) also, but due to medical need, that regulation got changed. Other similar regulations required pressurized gas canisters used in, for example, laboratories to be chained presumably to reduce any missile-like behavior should something go wrong with the tank, but those tanks are huge, so not comparable to bear spray canisters except both types are pressurized.
Putting it in the mail? I'd check with postal authorities next time. Anything bad that can happen to it on a train or plane can happen while being transported or stored by USPS.
Maybe it's because any missile-like behavior or explosions or whatever would likely damage far few people when being transported by a single driver than on mass transportation systems like planes and trains, but I'm not really sure what the reasoning is on the regulations.
When I lived in Alaska, whenever we hiked in the forest and mountains, our “pepper spray” consisted of a 30.06 or more powerful rifle. We never went into the woods without one.
I guess that wouldn’t be politically correct or allowed in the national Parks today especially for high school “children”.
Three points to be made here, slightly off-topic, but relevant to the larger issue. I lived in Montana for a few years, so this is my input:
1. You can always buy bear spray in or around Whitefish.
2. It can be very useful stuff, but you don't want to find yourself in a position where you are using it. It is the last step in bear safety. It is more important to follow other protocols of bear safety, such as making noise, not going into bear-intensive areas, and being careful going around corners on trails.
3. While it is good to be aware of bears, and they are a danger that you will face, it is also important to remember that there are a lot of other dangerous things you will encounter. Natural hazards, such as snow, rockslides and tick-borne diseases, but also the normal human hazards.
In the past twenty years, there have been two bear fatalities in Montana. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_bear_attacks_in_North_America
In 2014, there were 85 people killed by drunk drivers in Montana.
Still good advice. Bear spray is a 45' spray (no wind) as a last resort. Have had many encounters and only once or twice have I taken safety off bear spray but never had to use it.
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