I've seen ads touting tactical flashlights, and at least one such flashlight was claimed to be capable of "blind[ing] a bear".

I wanted a reality check, and not specifically whether a sufficiently strong tactical flashlight could temporarily blind a bear. My understanding is that people are more visual than many other mammals, and so on egocentric lack of Theory of Alien Minds, customers targeted by the ads would think "I'm mostly incapacitated when I can't see, so being temporarily blind would be an incapacitating experience to a bear," where for bears sight isn't quite so central and a blinded bear may well be capable of getting to you off of hearing and smell, not to mention even more upset for pain in the eyes.

If you want to be able to defend yourself from a bear, how effective or ineffective would a sufficiently strong tactical flashlight be? Would it be an asset or liability combined with a can of bear spray?


  • I think they will say just about anything to sell a product.
    – bobbym
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 19:45
  • 1
    It's unnecessary for Ursus americanus (black bear); I can't say for any other bear species. A loud noise, for example, a loud scream, often (not always) works for the former
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


This is a scenario which could go either way. Let me give an example in a different way.

Some people can protect their property against bears by putting an electric fence around their homes. However, this will only work if the bear "knows" by experience what the fence will do to him if he touches it. My guess is that it will be the same for any type of flashlight, tactical or otherwise.

But will a tactical flashlight really work against black bears? Well now: Let's ask a bear!

When police cars turn on their flashing lights, it gives you a little bit of a start, no? Me too: According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, flashing lights can startle me and cause me to flee the scene.

But there's a problem: It will most likely only work once. Unless something happens to reinforce the light (i.e. you yelling, banging pots, etc.), I'll learn to call your bluff. You might get a few more scares out of me by altering the pattern of lights, but eventually I'll figure out that there's nothing to them. If you're camping in a location with highly motivated problem bears used to raiding camps, it might not even work at all.

In either case, the best option for you is to keep all smelly items (food, toothpaste, deodorant, you know the drill) in a canister or in a properly hung bear bag far from camp. Since you're in the dark, it's probably best for you to use a locking canister, since some of us up there know how to open screw-top canisters.

Flashing lights are sometimes recommended for houses with bear problems, but lighting systems can be heavy or problematic to camp with. And how will you sleep with all those flashing lights?! Even with blinders on, you could be ruining the wilderness experience you came for in the first place. Never mind the bears — I think you'd have more trouble from fellow human campers who come from far and wide to see what that annoying flashing is all about. - Ask A Bear: Scared By Flashing Lights?

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    My Mom talked about camping [following standard advice like keeping strong-smelling items out of the camp], and waking up in the night, heart pounding, to the sound of a bear drinking from the group's water pail. Then she heard the sound of the bear eating something and abruptly rejecting it. When she got up in the morning, her sunscreen was gone. Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 12:50

At night it would still be a good idea to have the flashlight, because the farther away you could potentially see a bear, the more time you have to adjust your course to avoid it.

Whether or not it would blind a bear is hard to say, I haven't been able to find any experiments on bears one way or another. Police officers do use tactical flashlights when dealing with people.

Now, advances in technology have made it possible to increase the power of even small flashlights to emit beyond 500 lumens of light, which is more than enough to illuminate a room and cause temporary blindness in suspects.


With my tactical flashlight I can pick up the reflections from animal eyeballs at over 300 yards and being able to spot a bear or other creature at that distance would be a definite asset in avoiding an encounter.

I can say for certain that animals are sensitive to light and don't like it getting shined in their eyes and sometimes they will move away from you.

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