Bears are magnificent creatures that roam the forests and mountains of North America. They are known for their strength, intelligence, and agility. However, they can also be dangerous, especially when they feel threatened or provoked. As such, it is important to take precautions when camping or hiking in bear country. One of the most effective ways to deter bears is by using certain smells. But what smells will deter bears?
There are several smells that bears find repulsive and will avoid such as pine, lysol, pepper spray, ammonia, vinegar, moth balls, and more.
However, not all smells will deter bears. In fact, some smells can actually attract them. For example, bears are attracted to the smell of food, so it’s important to properly store and dispose of any food items. By understanding what smells will deter bears and what smells will attract them, hikers and campers can take the necessary precautions to stay safe in bear country.
Bear Behavior and Smell
Bears have an incredibly strong sense of smell, which they use to locate food and understand scent marks left by other bears. This sense of smell is so acute that bears can detect scents from miles away. Therefore, it’s important to understand what smells can attract or repel bears to keep yourself and your property safe.
What Attracts Bears to Your Property
Bears are attracted to anything that smells like food or has a strong odor. This includes bird feeders, pet food, garbage, boneyards, food scraps, beehives, roadkill, water sources, fruit trees, berry bushes, and other bears. Bears will also investigate any new or unusual smell, even if it’s not food-related. For example, they may investigate a strong perfume or cologne scent, which could lead them to your property.
To minimize the risk of attracting bears to your property, it’s important to properly store and dispose of food and other smelly items. This can include using bear-resistant trash cans, cleaning up spilled food, and removing bird feeders when bears are active in the area.
Why Bears Have a Strong Sense of Smell
Bears have evolved to have a strong sense of smell because it’s essential for their survival. They use their sense of smell to locate food, identify other bears in the area, and avoid danger.
To put a bear’s sense of smell in perspective, consider this: Bears can smell seven times better than a bloodhound, and bloodhounds can smell three hundred times better than the average dog! Considering that a dog’s sense of smell is between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than a human’s, that shows you that bears have some serious sniffing power.
Smells That Deter Bears
Bears have a keen sense of smell, and certain odors can help keep them away from your property. Here are some smells that deter bears:
Pepper spray contains capsaicin, which is a compound found in chili peppers. When bears come into contact with pepper spray, they experience a burning sensation in their eyes, nose, and throat, which can deter them from approaching. However, it’s important to note that pepper spray is a self-defense tool and should not be used as a bear deterrent. Bear spray also works on moose and other animals.
The strong smell of ammonia can be effective at keeping bears away. You can soak rags in ammonia and place them around your property or use ammonia-based cleaning products to create a barrier. However, it’s important to use caution when handling ammonia, as it can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.
Mothballs contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which can be effective at deterring bears. You can place mothballs around your property, but it’s important to keep them out of reach of children and pets, as they can be toxic if ingested.
Citronella oil is commonly used as an insect repellent, but it can also help deter bears. You can use citronella candles or torches to create a barrier around your property. However, it’s important to note that citronella oil is not as effective as other bear deterrents.
The strong smell of garlic can be effective at keeping bears away. You can plant garlic around your property or use garlic-based sprays to create a barrier. However, it’s important to note that garlic is not as effective as other bear deterrents.
Vinegar (regular or apple cider vinegar) has a strong odor that can be effective at keeping bears away. You can soak rags in vinegar and place them around your property or use vinegar-based cleaning products to create a barrier. However, it’s important to note that vinegar is not as effective as other bear deterrents.
The strong smell of bleach can be effective at keeping bears away. You can soak rags in bleach and place them around your property or use bleach-based cleaning products to create a barrier. However, it’s important to use caution when handling bleach, as it can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.
Neem oil is made from seeds from the neem tree, and has a garlicky or sulfuric smell. Bear’s don’t like it, and you probably won’t love the smell either, but it can help keep bears away.
Preventing bears from coming to your property is the best way to ensure your safety. Here are some preventative measures to keep in mind:
Proper Food Storage
One of the primary reasons bears come into contact with humans is because they are attracted to the smell of food. Store your food in airtight containers and keep them in a secure location. Do not leave food out overnight, and never feed bears.
Garbage is another attractant for bears. Make sure to dispose of your garbage properly, and do not leave it outside overnight. If possible, store your garbage in a bear-resistant container.
Maintaining a Clean Yard
Keep your yard or campsite clean and free of food debris and pet food, including anything elseg that smells like food. Clean your grill after each use, and do not leave food scraps or grease outside.
If you live or camp in an area with a high bear population, consider investing in bear-resistant containers for your food and garbage. These containers are designed to be bear-proof and can help prevent bears from being attracted to your property.
Other items like bear bags allow for food and/or refuse to be stored high up in the air where a bear cannot reach them.
When it comes to repelling bears, smells can be an effective tool. However, it is important to note that no smell is foolproof and bears may still be attracted to certain scents depending on their level of hunger and other environmental factors.
It is important to take precautions when camping or living in bear country, such as storing food properly and disposing of trash in bear-proof containers. In addition, using common sense can go a long way in preventing an unwanted bear visit.
Overall, while smells can be a useful tool in deterring bears, it is important to take a holistic approach to bear safety and be aware of the potential risks and best practices for living and recreating in bear country.
Check out our other helpful wildlife survival guides while you’re here: