Bear spray is a capsaicinoid-based irritant designed to avert bear attacks. EPA-registered bear sprays must contain 1 to 2 percent capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their burning sensation. While they share similar chemical properties, bear sprays are not the same as the pepper sprays used on humans.
To meet EPA requirements, registered bear sprays must provide a minimum spray duration of six seconds and a shooting range of 25 feet or greater. They must also contain at least 7.6 ounces of a capsaicinoid-related product. Because bear sprays are packaged in high-pressure spray canisters that can be difficult to control, people are encouraged to attempt a practice run before using them in the wild. Numerous studies have shown that people who carry bear sprays are more likely to deter an aggressive bear from attacking and to avoid injury.