Unbearable pain: How bear spray became a prized weapon for violent protesters

Bear spray was developed in the 1980s after a spate of fatal bear attacks against people. It uses the same active ingredient as pepper spray — capsaicin, a chemical component of chili peppers — but at levels that can make it twice as powerful. And unlike pepper spray canisters, which shoot out a narrow stream, the larger bear mace bottles unleash a powerful and expanding cloud of chemical irritants designed to extend more than 30 feet and linger in the air.

“It creates a cone of the material so you have a good chance to hit the bear,” said Chris Servheen, a Montana-based wildlife biologist who served for 35 years as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national grizzly bear recovery coordinator…

“It’s basically like a hot acid in your eye,” said Haar, who is an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. “These things are about 10,000 times more powerful than a store-bought habanero or your average jalapeño pepper.”