A Device to Deter a Bear

When a big bear approaches, some people choose to quietly stroll away. To give them an extra measure of safety, Anthony Victor Saunders and Adam Warwick Bell invented what they call a “pop-up device for deterring an attacking animal“.

Saunders, a London-based mountain climber, and Bell, a California patent attorney, applied for a patent in 2002, but later abandoned it. They would equip hikers with, essentially, an inflatable doll “meant to scare away an attacking or aggressive animal such as a bear”. The frightful balloon could also be used against “elk, moose, mountain lions, buffalo, hippopotamus, rhino, elephant, boar”. They explain that it “works on the principle of maximising the apparent size and ferocity of the human, intimidating the bear”.

In the patent application, Saunders and Bell refined their thoughts. Here’s how they decided the device must deploy quickly: “The figure should be fully inflated within less than one minute, or within less than 30 seconds, or preferably within less than 10 seconds, or most preferably five seconds.” …

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.

BONUS: A technical drawing from the patent:

BONUS: If you want to try building your own version of this device, and to do it using purchased components: there’s at least one inflatable bear head on the market.