Northern Wilds: Loaded for Bear with the Bear Stick

    Check out our article in the Northern Wilds July 2014 magazine issue:

    THUNDER BAY—You’re out for a hike in the woods. Suddenly, you happen upon a bear. Unlike 99.9 percent of black bears, this one doesn’t run away. What should you do?

    Jim Morris of Thunder Bay believes a situation such as this is the perfect time to employ a Bear Stick. So what, you may ask, is a Bear Stick?

    “I like to say it’s the hiking stick with attitude,” says Morris, who invented and now markets the Bear Stick.

    Attitude indeed. Inside a removable handle is a long, ardox spike imbedded in the shaft of the stick. The spike is the business end of the Bear Stick, which you use to defend yourself from the belligerent bruin. Morris says the idea came from his experience with Japanese martial art Aikido.

    “Aikido is the gentleman’s martial art,” he says. “You don’t attack; you respond.”

    Aikido relies on three weapons: a wooden sword called a bokken, a knife called a tanto and a staff called a jo. As an aikido devotee, Morris began carrying his jo when he went hiking. He liked it so much he got a second jo for his wife. Then he began thinking about how he would use a jo to defend himself from a bear. A light bulb clicked in his mind and he built the first Bear Stick.

    The Morrises carried their Bear Sticks for over 10 years. Last year, he decided to begin making and selling them. Early designs were with a simple dowel, but he soon moved to better quality wood and diamond willow. He sells them at the Thunder Bay Country Market and on his website

    The website also features bear and cougar attack incidents. He believes the Bear Stick is a viable alternative to carrying an air horn or pepper spray to deter bears. Some of his customers have been folks who are hesitant to go walking near their summer cottages for fear of encountering a bear.

    “I think I doing a service for people by providing them with a defensive weapon,” Morris says. “The average camper or hiker doesn’t carry a gun.”

    Which prompts a question from his American interviewer: If you are frightened of bears, why not carry a handgun? 

    “We can’t have handguns,” Morris says. “I don’t know anyone who owns a firearm, much less a handgun. We Canadians are so different than Americans. Sidearms are not part of our culture.”—Shawn Perich 

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