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Montana Made: Grizzly attack spurs man to start bear spray company

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A hike in 1994 in the Gallatin National Forest lead to a bear attack and the birth of a successful Montana business. (MTN News photo) A hike in 1994 in the Gallatin National Forest lead to a bear attack and the birth of a successful Montana business. (MTN News photo)
UDAP Industries general manager Tim Lynch. (MTN News photo) UDAP Industries general manager Tim Lynch. (MTN News photo)
UDAP Industries of Butte produces bear spray and other items. (MTN News photo) UDAP Industries of Butte produces bear spray and other items. (MTN News photo)
BUTTE -

Most people know to take a can of bear spray into the backcountry with them - but did you know much of that spray comes from Butte?

While law enforcement has been using pepper spray for decades, a near tragedy in southwest Montana led to its use in bear country. The old saying goes necessity is the mother of invention.

A hike in 1994 in the Gallatin National Forest led to a bear attack and the birth of a successful Montana business. While bow-hunting with a friend, UDAP founder Mark Matheny was attacked by a grizzly bear. Matheny survived the attack.

“What that did is it kind of sparked a bunch of events,” said UDAP Industries general manager Tim Lynch. “His friend had pepper spray on him and actually saved his life using a can of law enforcement pepper spray and after that Mark couldn't think about anything other than to how this pepper spray can help deter bears so he started looking into it and that's how UDAP came about.

UDAP was run out of Matheny's home at first but as business began to grow the company began to outgrow that setup, so in 2008 an expansion was needed.  

“We liked Butte, Mark liked the idea of Butte because of the workforce here,” said Lynch. “The people, they're known for their hard work and we just knew that it would be a good community to launch this new shipping facility in.”

“I do think that people are surprised that there's a bear spray company and pepper spray company in Butte,” said Lynch. “Mainly because we don't sell directly to the public per se, we're more of a manufacturer that sells to sporting good stores. They find it locally, but they have no idea that it's actually coming out of Butte here.”

UDAP now sells more than a dozen different pepper spray products -- from bear spray to personal protection -- and all with safety as the main focus of the product.

The time needed to fire a blast of pepper spray at a charging bear is 1.8 seconds. UDAP, through training and continued improvement, knows their product works.

“Just last year we actually had a black bear filmed on a GoPro and charging at full speed and the bear spray turning him away,” said Lynch.

“So you just off the safety clip,” Lynch said. “Fire the product and you want to shoot low, you want to hold the can steady. Aim low that will allow the billowing effect of the cloud to raise up and hit the bear in the nose.”

Innovation continues this spring with a new product design.

“You can clip this on,” said Lynch, explaining the company’s newest spray. “You can clip it right to your waist, which I have a belt on, but there's no need for that. You can still shoot right from the hip. You can also pull it out and still provides silent easy access to the trigger. You can pop it out the side in a hurry if you need to get it out in front of you low.”

This product hits stores this spring.

The next time you grab a can of UDAP Bear Spray and head into the backcountry, think about that hike 23 years ago -- and thank the quick-thinking cop and the unsuccessful bear for creating this Montana Made product.

UDAP also sells electric fences to repel bears and several other personal protection devices, all from its facility in Butte.

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