Visitors to the Grand Tetons National Park visitor center got a very unpleasant surprise recently when a can of bear spray was inadvertently discharged inside the building. The incident prompted an immediate evacuation of the entire facility, as the potent pepper spray soon spread throughout the center.
Apparently, one of the park’s rangers was preparing for a morning program in the visitor center’s auditorium when a man entered the room and quickly grabbed a seat without first taking a look at the chair. In doing so, he sat down directly on the can of bear spray, releasing its contents throughout the room, 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 people were suffering side effects from exposure to the pepper spray.
Bear spray is an incredibly potent version of the same pepper spray that is commonly used by police or for self defense by individuals. In this case however, it has to be strong enough to take down a 500 pound bear rather than a 200 pound person. The spray is actually an oil that is blasted out via an aerosol, and when this particular can went off inside the visitor center, it not only spread throughout the facility, itended up contaminating merchandise in the gift shop, including t-shirts and stuffed animals.
Anyone who has done any hiking in the American west knows that bears are a potential danger, particularly in national parks such as the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone. In many places, bear spray is actually mandatory gear before heading into the backcountry, and the ranger in this story was likely preparing to instruct visitors on its use. Unfortunately, they received first hand experience in just how powerful the spray actually is in a way that is usually only reserved for the bears.