The other day I was having a drink with a park ranger, a man who drove tour buses in Denali for 30 years, and a veteran of the Alaska tourism industry. The conversation turned to bear spray, and the three of them recounted four of the funniest stories involving bear spray that I had ever heard.
I was so amused by the stories, I decided to turn them into cartoons. This starts a four-part series called Bear Spray Stories that I plan to publish over the next several weeks.
Before we get started, some of you are asking: “What is bear spray?”
Bear spray is a form of pepper spray used to minimize injury due to bear-human conflict. In simpler terms, it is mace for bears. The photo below demonstrates bear spray in action:
Using bear spray is a last resort and should be done only when the attack is imminent. Even if used correctly, it is next to impossible not to get some of the noxious pepper sprays in your face. As you will find out during this series, it can be used to save lives, but also leads to accidents, some of which are hilarious. Hilarious, that is, provided you are not the one getting napalmed.
Without Further Ado:
Story No. 1: The Golden Grizzly Award
Back in the day, the bus drivers in Denali National Park used to give out a dubious award known as the Golden Grizzly Award to the driver who made the biggest screw up each year. Like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, one year a park ranger broke down barriers by winning the award. Here is how he won.
It was a cold and rainy day in Denali. As passengers were getting on the bus after one of the last stops of the day, a Hoary Marmot approached the bus. This was exciting for all the passengers.
However, no one was more excited than the marmot, because he suddenly found a cozy and dry refuge under the idling tour bus.
This created a problem for the driver because he couldn’t leave with the marmot under the bus and there were multiple places for the rodent to hide in the undercarriage.
He yelled at the marmot trying to get him to flee,
but the marmot would not leave.
All the cold, wet, and tired passengers became grumpy and started complaining to the driver.
Just when things were getting out of control, a savior in the form of a park ranger came along.
The ranger then crouched
and blasted a full can of caustic pepper spray under the bus.
If you remember, the bus was idling, so the pepper spray was sucked into the intake vents and blown into the vehicle, thus napalming all the tourists.
In what can only be imagined as a scene of terror, panic, and confusion, the tourists (most of which were elderly) began to scrum towards the front of the bus to escape the gassing.
The tourists piled outside – coughing, gagging, choking – and stood in the sleet and cold, most likely berating the ranger with a slew obscenities. A rescue bus had to be called in to take the passengers back home because obviously, the bus was no longer usable.
And that is how the first non-bus driver made history and won the Golden Grizzly Award.
Have you ever accidentally been gassed by pepper spray?
Is this story accurate? Were you there? Do you have anything to add?
Links to the other bear spray stories: