Deodorants and bears

12:35 a.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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Was just perusing the bits about soap, cleaning, and LNT practices that apply re: same, and of course came across the usual recommendations about (not) using deodorants in bear country. Not a problem, I don't mind developin' my own odoriferous signature, but I got to wondering....

What are the data on the use of deodorants and the attractions to bears? Lots o' people say this, and I think most of us practice it--if nothing else, just 'cuz it's one less thing to lug along--but what's it based on? Did a quick search of the forum and didn't find anything helpful in this regard, and so I'm putting it out there--anybody know of actual, like, data on the topic? Maybe even associated with something like a hypothesis or that thing called the scientific method?

[Addendum: After posting, I realized that this was probably a better fit on the "Backcountry" forum. Can't seem to find a way to move it, though, so here it stays. Sorry to any who are rankled by it.]

10:26 a.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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After a couple of days spilling coffee, drink mix, food, and fishing in the only two shirts that I have with me I figure that I pretty much smell like a backcountry market to any bear that gets a wiff of me. Scented soaps and deodorants are probably more of a cover scent.

I feel that with a bears keen sence of smell if you are on the same side of the mountain as he is that he knows you are there and everything that is in your camp. It is just fortunate for us that there natural instinks and possible previous encounters with people make them want to avoid close personal contact.

11:56 a.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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I have to agree with Gary. After a day or so even when I am careful I know there is a good potential that I have a food smells on me. I always avoid deodorants with in the woods more because of the bugs it attracts than the bears it may attract. I've had a lot more trouble with bugs annoying me in the past than bears showing more interest in me than I am comfortable with.
As to data, I haven't seen anything either.

12:22 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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Seems like we're three for three at the moment that aren't convinced it actually matters all that much to the bears whether one's wearing deodorant or not. Like you guys, I always figure the smell of shrimp fettucine is more of an issue than Right Guard. I'm willing to be proved wrong, and either way it's not exactly gonna keep me up nights, but there it is.

12:26 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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The data I have seen and the anecdotal evidence I have gotten from my ranger friends in places like Yosemite say that bears (and raccoons, marmots, and other critters) are as attracted to deodorants, toothpaste, soap, and other items with a smell that the critters can detect as they are to food. It is a strange new smell that in some cases is just like foods they know (flowery and fruit smells are common for deodorants and soaps, and many toothpastes have minty smells and flavors). I have seen the aftermath of bear visits in some of the car campgrounds near Tioga Pass and elsewhere in the Sierra, where the deodorant, baby wipe, soap, and toothpaste containers and the boxes they were in that the car campers had left out were ripped apart and chewed on. The bears seem to take the approach of "smells interesting, let's try it". In some cases, the bears seem to recognize the container - ice chests are a frequent target (there are videos of the bears in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne recognizing an ice chest visible inside a car and the bear breaking into the car on the Yosemite NP website). And I have witnessed bears biting into a coke or beer can, then tilting their heads up to drain some of the contents. Strangest to me was a couple years ago when Barb and I were base camping in a car camp along the Tioga Road and a couple young bears were going through the campground a couple times a day. They went after several SunShowers that people had left sitting on their tables to heat up in the sun. My guess is that the SunShowers looked a bit like hydration bladders.

No matter what it actually is, if it smells or looks anything like food, bears and other critters will investigate it. So store it out of sight, preferably in a bear locker, a bear canister in the backcountry, or bear bag (if that works in your part of the country - ask the local rangers about this, bear bags do not keep the bears out in most of the Sierra, Yellowstone, Glacier, or the more popular Alaska mountain areas). You can get data on the Yosemite NP website, along with videos.

5:00 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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To add to Bill's post they also say that makeup is another attractant for bears and I'm assuming any of the other critters mentioned. I'm not aware of any studies on this subject but they say its better to be safe than sorry. The problem is probably more with your bears that have been habituated to humans as well as food conditioned. These bears are not afraid to examine an odor source that is mixed with known human scent. That's when you get bears ripping into your tent to see what's inside and they may bite whatever is in there to test if it's edible or not.

6:08 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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If all of that's true--and I don't doubt that it is--then isn't it at least likely that bears in highly-traveled areas will come to associate the smell of humans with food and snacks? Also, I think it pretty likely that a bear, like a dog, is going to investigate pretty much everything it gets access to whilst in a car, tent, cooler, whatever, regardless of whether said item(s) had anything to do with attracting the animal to the spot. Example--the cans of Coke mentioned above. I think it's at least unclear whether the smell of deodorants--as opposed to or more so than the other odors wafting outward from our fragrant bodies--actually entices bears to investigate.

9:05 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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I often backpack in areas that have black bears, some areas in the Southeast have population densities of 1 to 2 Black Bears per sq. mile. That is just an average of course, some areas will have few to no bears, while more remote areas that offer excellent natural habitat for bears will hold more than the average, although they do roam large territories. Unfortunately, bears around the many Parks, campgrounds, and small towns have become conditioned to human presence (like in a lot of other places) they have of course learned to associate all types of human smells with food.

So while the bear may catch a whiff of your deodorant or toothpaste, his curiosity will be food based. A bears sense of smell and his natural curiosity should not be underestimated.

Some bears in the Parks have also learned to associate human sounds with food, such as car doors being shut, or someone driving tent stakes in the ground have attracted panhandling bears.

These are skills that are also being taught to cubs by conditioned sows.

When camping in these areas I think it wise to avoid using any scented products, and practice the established guidelines for camping in your area, ALL smellables should go in a canister or bag placed well away from your tent. You should be cooking and sleeping in different areas. If you have food on your clothing it should not be in the tent with you.

Part of the reason for this is to un-condition the bears, you want to make their snooping around as unproductive as possible and re-instill their natural fear of man during an encounter. This approach makes it safer for us to venture into the wilderness, and saves the lives of bears who would otherwise become conditioned to the point of being considered potentially dangerous to humans and must be destroyed.


More than you may wish to know:

12:37 a.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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I use unscented deoderant when camping and have never had a problem.

11:56 a.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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I'm not sure that you completely caught my intent with the original post. I certainly didn't mean to imply that one should be cavalier with behavior in bear habitat, nor do things that are known to attract bears. My curiosity arose from the claim, frequently made, that odors such as deodorants are attractive to bears. I know of no meaningful data supporting this, only repeated statements that "bears are curious" and "bears have fantastic senses of smell", ergo, bears will investigate unusual odors.

The logic involved in such a train of thought is attractive, though modest in extent, and hardly conclusive. And the claim by extension that such should preclude use of deodorant in the backcountry and storage of deodorants with food supplies when deodorants are transported in the backcountry, doesn't, on inspection, necessarily hold.

In fact, one could make the argument that deodorants, by reducing the human scent, may reduce the attraction of bears to a campsite. This could be the case if one of the primary attractants is human scent being presented to a food-conditioned bear. The premise here is that unnatural foods in a bear's world will almost always be co-existing with human scent, and so the conditioning will lead to investigation of that known associative factor--human scent--when presented. Thus, reduction of human scent might actually work to reduce bear attraction, especially from the potentially more problematic bears, those already conditioned to unnatural food sources.

Another factor to keep in mind is that since inappropriate food storage is a key factor in bear attraction, encouraging storage of deodorants and similar with food could inadvertently lead to a positive association with food, and thus the situation in which said scent is indeed an attractor to (at least some) food-conditioned bears. At the same time, if bears investigate deodorant smells and find no food, it could become either a neutral or negative stimulus.

Upon reviewing the materials which you provided, I found no data or evidence-based claims that deodorants, toothpastes, etc. should best be stored securely with foods, and only marginal reference to the topic at all.

Having said all this, I'm still in the same position in which I started--without significant evidence that storing deodorarnts and similar items with foods helps deter unwanted bear-human interactions. This is a good place to note that I don't know of evidence to the contrary, either. In the interest of trying to make the best possible recommendations to persons entering bear habitat, it seems reasonable to continue to recommend that all such items be securely stored in bear-proof containers well away from the primary campsite.

I note WISam's practice, appreciate the input, and am willing to wonder aloud if that might not actually be the best practice available, although I'm not at all sure that "unscented" truly is, especially where a bear is concerned. Another round of discussion, perhaps.

1:56 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi perry,

I do understand the point you are making, and have given it some thought over the past few days, did a little reading and asked some questions.

I think that the bears curiosity comes into play here maybe.

I'm going to contradict my earlier post a bit after having talked to a wildlife management official this week. Part of the concern seems to be the bears curiosity, not just it's search for food. The bears sometimes are drawn in by the learned behavior of getting to check out human made objects, especially those with scent. This behavior puts humans and bears in close proximity to one another, which isn't good for the bears. So maybe that's part of the reasoning behind putting all smeallables in your bear bag or canister. I guess anything which lures them into your camp for any reason is a concern in regard to the bears becoming conditioned to this behavior which is never good for the bear. There is of course no way to sterilize your camp and make it 100% odor or attractant free, I think the best thing to do is to follow the established guidelines for each area that have been put in place by knowledgeable people.

I was directed to this study this past week:

9:18 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for the thoughtful reply. The article you linked to is a report of the behaviors of two young bears raised in captivity when given opportunity to explore the characteristics of a select few inanimate objects. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the most engaging objects were the chains, which, by their nature, provided variable results and feedback to actions on the part of the bears.

This, combined with copious anecdotal evidence, supports the notion of bears being inherently curious animals, which in turn buttresses the idea of them being fairly intelligent creatures.

One might expect that as animals become more intelligent, their behaviors will vary more on presentation with a given stimulus, depending on their backgrounds, including prior experience with same or similar stimuli, and any tendency to pleasant or unpleasant results when investigating novel stimuli, and so forth.

It's because of all of this that we find both the common recommendations of storing any "smellables" with food, in a secure way, removed from camp, and the non-use of deodorants, etc., esp. those with a strong or food-like aroma.

Were I to store all "smellables" in a bear canister, however, I'd find myself sleeping in a polycarbonate cylinder most nights in the backcountry. Likewise, the idea that my pack and other items aren't loaded with odor of one sort and another is, frankly, laughable.

Therefore, it becomes obvious that we should be focusing our efforts on those items that have particular types of odors--e.g., foods and food-like smells and items that have odors frequently associated with same. Also, one must consider the strength of aroma. The faintest whiff of some smells might be enough to attract a hungry bear (or hiker!), while others may require more strength of stimulus to be an attractant. I'll climb every mountain for my mom's molasses cookies, but won't get out of my chair for Chips Ahoy.

A conundrum similar to what we're speaking of here arises when considering storing clothing in which one has eaten and/or cooked with food. Since I tend to eat along the trail, have a lunch mid-day, and meals in morning in evening, often with jacket, etc., it becomes problematic to store all such clothing items with food in a canister or what have you. If I did, I'd be prancing around the mountainside in socks and skivvies morning and evening, trying either to store my clothes or find the dang bear canister. Not something you'd likely want to run across without warning.

My own practice remains that of storing all food items, and what I consider significantly smelly others, in a bear canister or bag, away from the campsite. Insignificantly smelly items include such things as lip balm (if plain ol' Chapstick is gonna attract a bear, I've probably got something else on me or in the tent that's gonna do it, too), unscented camp soap, etc.

Of note, perhaps, is that I never allow food in my tent. No food of any sort makes its way past the flaps, not even an unopened granola bar.

Finally, one can also note that bears, like other critters, will sometimes investigate and chew on, destroy, etc. all sorts of things that have little or no odor and clearly are not food--such as the trail signs, weather stations, and the like mentioned in the article to which you linked. Therefore, there are no guarantees.

You pays your money and you takes your chances.

9:31 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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I read Bacon's article and learned the following:

* I should carry some chains (whips and leather were not used in the study) for the bears to play with, this is much more effective than trying to avoid odors

* If chains are too heavy to pack along, and the bear population is older, blocks are effective. LEGOs may be too sophisticated, but the research is inconclusive on this score

* Ursus may eventually benefit from his acquired knowledge of simple objects (chains, blocks, tubing) and basic applied physics. Hikers should soon be prepared for simple bear constructs such as blowguns, crossbows, and trebuchets.

10:02 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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HaHa, yes I agree with both you guys. There is no perfect study or perfect practice, and you can get so bogged down in detail that you loose sight of where you started. I do think that a more realistic study as it pertains to camping would sound more reasonable, but I'm not a bear behavior expert and maybe those guys understand things we don't, and the observations they gained were all that was needed.

Legos are too sophisticated for me, so I would have to give the bears a pass on that.

As we know lots of things sound good in theory, but are a little more difficult in practice, such as putting ALL your smellables in a bag or canister. To do this with 100% effectiveness we would have to be in there as well, right? So I guess it's a matter of common sense, and a matter of degree. I put my smellables and the clothes I cooked in, in my bear bag and take only a water bottle back to my tent. Sure I do carry some odor back to my tent, we all do, it's just a matter of degree. Like I always say, do what you can within reason and have a good time.

I don't recommend eating corn chips in your tent, there's a story behind that, but I'm sure we all could agree that's not a good idea. A lot also depends on the conditioning of the bears in your area, where I backpack the bears are fairly concentrated and are quite industrious thanks to all the Parks and tourist attractions.

Yep, you pays your money and takes your chances.

Adventure does not come without surprises and some risk, then again you could say the same thing about driving to the mall in heavy traffic on Friday night, right?

11:40 p.m. on March 29, 2009 (EDT)
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I haven't been to the mall in years. And the last time time I went to the mall on a Friday night? Well, it was years before that....

I'd rather eat corn chips in my tent. Alone. In the rain. In a foreign country. With a dead iPod, blisters on both feet, and a constant drip from the peak of the tent onto my down bag with a tear in the fabric, having failed to start a fire with the divorce papers my wife had served on me at the trailhead.

I simply don't do malls.

A good butterscotch malt, on the other hand....

3:52 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Ugh! A butterscotch Malt? I like coffee milkshakes, frappes, and malted; but butterscotch?

6:15 p.m. on March 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Oh, butterscotch, all I caught was scotch.

I prefer rum, on the rocks. The real rocks that is. I like to pick a seat (rock) in the afternoon beside a cold mountain stream, just me and the sunset, trying to get the lid off my unscented deodorant.

12:10 a.m. on March 31, 2009 (EDT)
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I quote Sean Connery, from The Untouchables:

"My God, I'm amongst the heathen."

Yes, butterscotch. Now I shan't bore you with details about butterscotch and the various versions available, but let me say this--a good, cold, butterscotch malt under a shady tree on a hot day is one of the five or six best things in the world. Add a baseball game on the radio, with your team winning, and you're in the top three. Put your honey on a blanket next to you, curled up with a good book, and it just doesn't get better than that.

Unless you're laughing at trouthunter struggling to pry off the top of an Arrid Extra Dry deodorant stick. ;-)!

5:49 p.m. on April 24, 2009 (EDT)
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I have been a couple High Sierra campgrounds in Yosemite NP and had bears come through the camp area at night and not bother anything but, to agree with Bill S about the little creatures (raccoons, marmots, and other critters) are as attracted to deodorants, toothpaste, soap, etc. also.
The first time I took my sons to Glenn Aulin, we heard a couple bears come through the general area but, they did not stop in our particular area. A little after midnight we heard some little creatures scurrying around outside our tent. A little while later I heard a rip type sound. I remember thinking, "who has got velcro on their pack." The next morning we saw something had chewed a small hole in the bonnet of my oldest son's backpack then, split the seams with their claws. We saw his zip-lock bag also torn open with his deodorant and tooth paste on the ground. I was surprised they were able to smell the deodorant and tooth paste while inside the zip-lock bag while it was closed.
I used safety pins to close his bonnet when we returned back to the trailhead.

8:56 p.m. on May 5, 2009 (EDT)
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I use hand sanitizer on my pits. It keeps my overall stink levals low so I don't have to bring anything flowery smelling to cover up the already existing stink.

But like many other people, even when I'm careful with odor proof bags and everything I feel like I'm advertising camp smell after a few days.

9:54 p.m. on May 5, 2009 (EDT)
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I carry a small cellulose sponge soaked with "Hunter's Specialties" scentfree liquid soap and use this morning and night. I carry it in doubled Ziplocks inside a silnylon stuff sack.

I also carry some Mitchum's Scentfree Gel deodorant which I obtain by breaking a new container at home and filling a tiny pill bottle with the deodo. I use this before bed and this hygiene technique has worked for me since I started it in 1990.

Bears ARE MOST DEFINITELY attracted to the scents of human cosmetics and also to some actual human scents, the pheromones in human sweat may well attract them and from far greater distances than many realize. Bears have unbelievable powers of scent and superb hearing, but, cannot see very well.

So, a clean hiker in clean clothing/camp is less likely to have an unwanted encounter at 02:30 when peacefully snoozing away. In Grizzly country, this approach is one of your best options to avoid trouble.

12:51 a.m. on May 8, 2009 (EDT)
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First of all, sorry about the whole thing with the election back in '48.

But as for your claim that bears are most definitely attracted to the scents of human cosmetics--can you point me to some useful and meaningful data? Virtually all the stories one reads about this are anecdotal, essentially boiling down to "Joe Camper was using Heavenly Scent Right Guard deodorant, and it seems to be that which attracted the bear", and then lots o' folks conclude that such is indeed the case.

Such a conclusion is supported primarily by thought processes that see such a relationship between facts as likely causal, because it makes sense to us. But I can easily point out that there are other things with even higher statistical associations with bear attacks, since not all who are attacked by bears are using deodorants, and certainly not the same one(s) or same scent(s). Virtually all of the people who have been attacked in the last 25 years have eaten McDonald's hamburgers at some time in their lives, for instance. Virtually all of them did NOT drink chokecherry wine in the 24 hr before the attack. Virtually all of them watched TV for at least thirty minutes a week.

I'm not contesting the notion that a clean hiker in clean clothing in a clean camp is less likely than a dirty, smelly hiker in food-scented clothing in a dirty (food-smelling) camp to entertain Mr or Mrs Ursus unexpectedly. But do we actually know that this one particular factor matters? Or is it best guess? Which is fine, btw. I'm just wanting to expand my knowledge.

5:14 p.m. on May 8, 2009 (EDT)
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There is information on the "smellables" on the Yosemite NP website, among other places. There is a lot of hard data that was determined in the process of testing bear canisters and other containers. Yosemite NP and others who have been concerned with this question have used the "3-striker" bears that have caused problems in the campgrounds and have been locked away in zoos as testers for such things (the other option for problem bears is being put down after "3 strikes", the first couple of strikes resulting in exiles from which some of the bears return or cause problems in their new homes).

Basically the findings were that anything that has an interesting smell "to bears" will attract an investigation at least out of curiosity. Fruit smells, such as you find with toothpaste and some skin lotions, are most attractive. Some other scents added to make the stuff less objectionable to human users (pine scents, for example) are less attractive to the bears, but get curiosity-probes anyway. Some "non-scented" deodorant sticks (the rub-on semi-solid sticks) apparently have an odor bears can detect. Note that "curiosity-probes" are a different behavior than the fruit smells, more of an "it's different, let's check this out" than attempts to get at the stuff to try eating it. Actual food, as you would expect, gets a more direct reaction. Plain soap does not seem to be attractive, though, as Dewey mentioned. I would say that Dewey has enough experience living and working in real BC wilderness conditions that you can consider what he is saying as much more sound than the usual "anecdotal" information.
You can find more with a bit of web searching.

Different critters are attracted to different things, though. Apparently the people who occupied the rental house we are using during rebuilding our old house were not as careful as they should have been with food and other things. Plus, there are 2 dozen fruit trees in the back yard. There were some rats that were visiting the garage. The figs seemed to be the rats favorite food, but they apparently had been attracted to something the previous tenants had left out in the garage and kept returning in search of whatever it was. They had also gotten into some duvets to make a nest out of the down. We had kept the garage clean of food and potential other attractants, but the curious critters returned anyway. I tried the recommended peanut butter, some of the figs from the tree, dried fruit, and other things to bait the traps with no success. Then I noticed that one of the rats had nibbled on a bar of laundry soap. So I baited the traps with chips of that and cleaned out the colony in 4 days (one mechanical trap and one electronic electrocution trap). Why they liked laundry soap instead of real food is a mystery to me.

Dunno how (or if) that applies to bears, but it says something about the strange tastes of various critters.

11:17 p.m. on May 8, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill S

Where I live, even the animals that live in my back yard are so wild that they don't eat human food. No - they eat my flowers instead. :-> We have racoons in the rocks out back and only once have they ever hit a sack of garbage left on the deck and the racoons, bears and marmots ignore the garbage cans.

I keep my first aid kit with tooth brush tooth paste etc in it, in my pack in my tent all of the time - always - everywhere, for my entire life, and I have never had a problem. My food I tie about 5-6 feet in the air so vermin can't get to it, but I don't bother to bear bag anymore unless its required. I have only seen one truly wild black bear in my life - a 500 pounder - but he ignored the food in my tent.

Oh yes - so a friend of mine with a huge beard used to bring packaged smoked salmon bping. I told him I thought the fish smell was probably a bad idea, but he argued that the empty package was hung in a tree in the garbage bag and he would wash his hands. I said "What about your beard man. Its covered with fishy oil". Your face will smell really good.


12:50 p.m. on May 9, 2009 (EDT)
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With all due respect to Dewey and others, experiential reference, without systematic analysis, is, indeed, "anecdotal", though perhaps in many cases improved by being in the plural.

I'm familiar with some of the claims about the interest bears show in so-called "smellables" in captive conditions, but it's not clear that such behaviors extrapolate well into the wild environment. Also, the ones with which I've been regaled suffer significantly from the problem of "n"--i.e., the number of animals tested is quite small, as well as other issues.

As for searching the web, I've done that, and come up with zip. Nada. Nothing even close to meetig decent scientific standards. Not to say that there aren't folks who have good data, but it's not something that pops right up on Google. Maybe it's out there, but I've not come across it, and I've looked. I'd be more than happy to admit I looked in the wrong places if someone would direct me to the right places, but that's not happened yet, either.

Finally, let me again make it clear that I'm not contesting anyone's conclusions--I'm simply asking for good studies and data, if they exist. All too often, asking for the supporting ddata is interpreted as doubt of the conclusion(s), where it should be seen, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, as merely a request for information.

I find it an interesting question because of the complexity of the issue. It involves the behaviors of at least two relatively intelligent species, different odors, combinations of those odors with each other and other factors, and so forth.

It would not at all surprise me to find that rigorous scientific method applied to the question tells us that bears are indeed highly attracted to "fruity" smells. (Although I'd guess that "meat" rates even more interest from the typical ursine.) I'm just a curious guy, and would like to see some data.

6:48 p.m. on May 9, 2009 (EDT)
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hmmm, so observing bears in the wild is only anecdotal, regardless of who is doing the observing. True, there is a selection effect in the 3-striker bears - they were busted because they had repeatedly gone after human food in developed campgrounds and were considered by the park rangers, on advice from staff biologists who have been studying bear behavior for a number of years, to pose a potential danger to humans (and iggorent hoomins of the Big City subspecies at that). Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Denali NP rangers and staff biologists have recorded over the years what substances the bears have gone after in the campgrounds and in backcountry camps as well as the captured bears. These observations form the basis of the recommendations on the Yosemite website. I have seen paper reports on these studies, but do not know where you can find the reports online (or whether they exist online). And yes, meat (and more so, fish) is an attractant. But then, the habituated bears learn that certain types of containers often have food in them and will go straight for the containers (that includes backpacks), whether or not they actually contain food. For the past few years, bears in the Lake Tahoe area have been breaking into cabins. The sheriff's office has been collecting and publishing the reports. The majority of the breakins show bear tracks around the cabins indicating that the bears look through the windows, and most frequently break into cabins in which the refrigerator is visible from the window. Anecdotal? Yes, if police reports triggered by breakins and investigation are anecdotal. Coincidence? Maybe.

But maybe you are asking for controlled experiments where the investigator goes out into the wild, lays out a variety of substances in a variety of containers, and records with thermal imaging video at night how many bears go after each type of substance and in which type of container. After this investigation, subjected to refereed publication and confirmed by multiple investigators, we can ask the government to require labels on the products noting which are bear attractants.

I personally am content to rely on the information provided by NP rangers and others I know who have observed bears in the wild over a number of years, plus the aftermath of bear-pack interactions I have observed myself. {8=>D]

8:16 p.m. on May 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry, I am somewhat baffled by your posts, perhaps it is your rather prolix prose or the obscure historical reference. However, it is clear to me that you know very little about bears and could benefit from learning some facts about them.

There ARE quite a number of available sources for gathering sound information on different aspects of bear behaviour and the ethology is well documented.

For those who are NOT actual graduates in wildlife sciences, some books are written from a "popular" perspective, yet, contain valid and useful information....see Shelton, James Gary, see Herrero, Stephen, see Russell, Charlie and the various titles by the legendary Craighead family as examples.

I suggest "Googling" these and reading them and then you might more clearly understand what Bill is trying to tell you.

9:36 p.m. on May 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry, I understand how you feel.

Here is a link to a site with a wealth of good info, (actual studies).

Click on the Ursas Journal tab, in the drop down list click on Ursas Volumes, there are 8 or 9 volumes containing multiple studies in each volume. Each study has a brief description followed by a PDF link to that study. Included are studies by the Craighead Family, Shelton, Herrero, and Pelton.

You may or may not find exactly what you seek, but none the less this is a great resource to bookmark and contains a wealth of good info on various species of Bears.

11:07 p.m. on May 9, 2009 (EDT)
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That is a link that I greatly appreciate and thank you for doing it. I just very quickly reviewed it and saw some people there whom I used to know and one, in particular, who spent a lot of time asking me questions about my experiences with bears, this in the bush of the Flathead Valley where I was running a silvicultural project.

We had about 75 people in tents and lots of bears as it was this time of year, the emergent phase of their annual cycle; I taught everyone my personal "basic bear" hour long lecture and, as always in my time in this work, never had a single incident or even a frightened crew person.

When I was a lad, living where I was born, the early pioneers of the area were still alive and friends of my pioneer family. I was taught by men, some of whom had participated in the "Klondike Gold Rush" and who spent 50+ years of living for six months alone in the wilderness on traplines and the summers prospecting.

While such instruction WAS "anecdotal", as my bear coping teaching of forestry crews and tourists is, the knowledge involved WORKS and is based on intense, longterm "hands-on" experience with bears. In my case, I have well OVER 50 years of dealing with bears and have NEVER had a problem with even ONE, that required my firearm or a sudden retreat and that is all I have to say on this as I think that the link supplied plus my earlier suggestions can offer Perry what he seems to desire.

11:57 p.m. on May 9, 2009 (EDT)
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What kinds of deodorants do bears use?

1:49 a.m. on May 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry's a scientist at heart. I can commiserate with him... anecdotal evidence doesn't satisfy the scientific method.

You're probably right, but that's not the point. Perry's looking for some well-conducted tests based on the scientific method.

2:18 a.m. on May 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Gentlemen, gentlemen, it looks like you've gotten your hackles raised over the wrong thing again.

Yes, Bill, mere experiential reports, when very small in number, are still in nature essentially anecdotal, regardless of who is doing the reporting. Any decent scientist knows this, and so refrains from drawing conclusions based upon it unless forced to do so.

I've looked at innumerable articles, web sites, videos, and so forth by park rangers, various wildlife scientists, and the like, and the methodological holes in them, from a scientific perspective, are huge. I've spoken with rangers and assorted others in parks, forests, and wilderness areas ranging across the country, although I've not visited the ever-hallowed Yosemite, I must admit. And I've camped, hiked, backpacked, ridden, fished, and just sat around sunning myself in lots of different places, including territory inhabited by black and/or grizzly bears. I've encountered bears near and far, though, thankfully, never too near.

I made it abundantly clear that I wasn't contesting conclusions, so unsolicited advice that perhaps I should just listen to someone with more experience is, frankly, unhelpful at best. I've listened, both here and elsewhere, and now I'm asking for data and systematic analysis thereof. A mere listing of a few incidents accompanied by a statement that investigations found that bears were attracted to X, Y, or Z is not really anything more than someone telling me that I should listen to them because they've got more experience, or they've spoken to someone with more experience, or what have you. That's a paternalistic approach often taken by people who don't actually have the data and/or appropriate analysis to back up their claims.

Now, that said, I've been rather explicit in saying that I am not trying to challenge conclusions; frankly, I don't give a rat's patootie what anyone's conclusions are--I'm interested in seeing the data, what kind of data it is, how it was accumulated, under what conditions, etc.

Bill, your comments about what kind of science and methodology I might be looking for seem to me sarcastic, unhelpful and unkind. I hope they weren't intended that way.

Dewey, your comments seem to suggest that you think I'm trying to contest what you've had to say--again, I'll point out that, prolix prose or not, none of what I've said has actually done so--I only asked, really, how it is we know what we think we know. If you are confident in what you know, that question should not bother you or anyone else. That it does, or seems to, I'm sorry about, and I'm willing to listen to suggestions about how better to ask if anyone has any actual data on the subject--which, if you'll look at the original post, was what I was after from the beginning.

Trouthunter provided the only useful response, giving a link to the online presence (such as it currently is) for the journal Ursus. At that site, they've got several volumes of their journal archived, though not all. I've visited the site before, and looked through each title thereon, and downloaded the PDF, where available, of more than a dozen articles that I thought might have useful data on the topic, and I found nothing of substance on the particular question. A quick look at it this evening shows that nothing has been added since my last visit, as far as I can tell. But thanks for the effort, TH.

But to the point, far and away the most frequent mention of a particular item as a bear attractant was food and food remains. Herrero in more than one instance estimated that 90% or more of attacks not associated with female/cub encounters were associated with food, if I recall correctly. He also mentioned in at least one report that neither female menstruation nor use of cosmetics seemed to have any effect on the likelihood of bear-human interactions, based on the materials he reviewed.

In another of the studies, one looking at black bear behavior, Bacon noted that "everyone has stories, but no one". Interesting, that.

Again, gentlemen, I wasn't asking for recommendations about whether to use deodorant or not--I was asking if anyone had or knew of any data on the topic. Instead, it seems I'm finding people getting huffy because they think I'm ignoring their sage advice. I didn't ask if the local constabulary had reports of bears preferentially selecting cabins where they could see refrigerators through the window, but it's mentioned as if it were relevant. I didn't ask for recommendations about how to travel in bear country. Lots of that around, easy to find, etc.

Nope, gentlemen, I asked if anyone has or knows of any decent data, preferably accompanied by meaningful systematic analysis, on the subject. If you don't have it or know where I can lay hands on it, that's fine. No harm done. But please don't chastise me for seeming to ignore unsolicited advice proffered in what I'm sure was a well-intended but misguided effort to help.

If I ask if anyone happens to know how many times in his career George Brett got a hit with two strikes and I'm told that Brett was a really good hitter, I've not learned anything, and most specifically, I haven't learned whether Brett might have been lots better than average when swinging with two strikes. Even if it's Goose Gossage telling me he's a great hitter.

9:00 a.m. on May 10, 2009 (EDT)
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BEAR with me a moment as I relay a true story, there is a point to it.

In 1986 I was living on the Cumberland Plateau Escarpment area in Tennessee just NW of Chattanooga. In an effort to acquaint myself with the local people and their way of life, which was quite different to what I was accustomed, I befriended several of my neighbors who seemed to be excellent gardeners, farmers, hunters, etc.

I was later asked If I would like to go squirrel hunting. Being a person who only hunts for food, I asked why kill a squirrel? They replied, "cause we freeze the meat for using in chili & stews, it's good".

Satisfied with this answer, I agreed to go. Little did I know they were using a method of squirrel hunting that I found startling at best, being someone who held safety in great regard.

This "hillbilly" method required one or more hunters to preposition themselves at one end of a stand of timber, with their positions spread out a bit. Then a single hunter would walk around to the other end of the timber stand and slowly walk into the line of fire while talking to himself or whistling.

The effect of this method was that the squirrels climbed around to the side of the tree away from the lone walker in an effort to hide, but totally exposed to the hunters with the guns who were hiding in wait.

I asked, aren't you scared you'll hit the walker doing this?

"No," came the reply, 'been doing this for generations, we ain't gonna shoot Bobby. I had often heard the phrase "unorthodox, but highly effective", it's truthfulness was revealed to me that day for sure. These guys weren't out to have fun, they needed results.

I lived in this area for three years and learned a valuable lesson, while many of the things these people did seemed highly unorthodox to me, they were, none the less, both effective and necessary to their way of life given the fact that the area was so economically depressed. While they lacked a formal education, they exhibited great proficiencies at tasks and skills that seem to be going by the wayside in today's modern world. I have actually witnessed more than one of them shoot skeet with a pistol in the 60 - 70% success range, with no formal training. Mind you this was not at a long distance, but still...

They taught me a lot about Bears, Snakes, Skunks, Deer, and so on. What I learned from them closely parallels the same advise & recommendations found in books and studies by highly educated "folk". This is not a dig at higher education, just my observation.

May I suggest that we form our own study somehow?

I'm willing to participate, but do not have a scientific background, then again, sometimes that can be a benefit. Especially if your the lone deodorant wearing walker!

9:41 p.m. on May 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry -

It is good to be skeptical, regardless of whether the evidence is anecdotal or from carefully designed and controlled experiments published in refereed journals. There are lots of situations where the stories are exagerated, made up fictions, or just plain untrue. However, absence of evidence (whether anecdotal or controlled, audited, and refereed) is not the same as evidence of absence. Given the potential significant negative consequences of discounting what you are dismissing as uncorroborated anecdotal evidence (potentially loss of gear and food, potential serious injury, or even death), I would err on the conservative side and rely on the advice of park rangers with accumulated years of "casual" observation (which includes video, film, and still imagery), people like Dewey with accumulated decades of "casual" experience accumulated by living in bear country, and people who have spent years studying bear behavior. I am not nor do I claim to be an expert on bears. After all, my 6 (approaching 7) decades, much of which was spent in bear (and lion) country has not resulted in the loss of any food or gear (despite people camped within 50 feet of me who lost everything, including their toothpaste), so I have zero experience with loss, and apparently with attracting inquisitive bears. Was I actually successful in practicing "safe camping", or just lucky? Who knows? Maybe I am just unattractive to bears, or maybe I have a secret amulet signifying my membership in the Clan of the Cave Bear. My experience is also primarily with black bears, and only a small amount with grizzlies and Alaskan brown bears. So my personal "anecdotal" experience is not worth considering. I can provide slightly more "anecdotal" evidence on rattlesnakes, having been bitten once (and only once, which resulted in the snake's death) - my advice being, don't irritate the snake when he or she is within 1.5 body lengths. But then, that is only anecdotal experience, and was not a carefully designed and controlled experiment (in fact, it was very uncontrolled).

Personal opinion, no audited or refereed evidence, but I would really advise being ultraconservative in this case and keeping food and other "smellables" in canisters, bear boxes, and other safeguarded locations at a distance from where you sleep, just in case there is some tiny grain of truth to the anecdotes. It can't hurt if the anecdotal evidence is wrong, but it sure can if the anecdotes are true.

10:20 p.m. on May 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Good chuckles for a Sunday night since I am not one for "the Simpson's" or even REALITY wilderness shows......

Thsi reminds me of one of the scores of incidents that happened during my years of forestry, parks and wildlife-fisheries work. This was in remote northern Alberta and concerned a "veghead" who had his toothpaste swiped off his windowsill by a pair of very aggressive Blackies, who also threatened him as he ran from the "privey" to the lookout cabin.

This is about 40 mins. by a 212 from the nearest station and is just wild, un-populated country, full of bears, wolves, deer, moose and various furbearers plus a few Indians. The guy would not keep a gun and insisted on living largely upon organic carrots and then COMPOSTING the remains thereof quite close to his station.......

The bears returned after devouring his toothpaste and laying waste to his compost, the sugar in both was, IMHO, the major attractant. One of these bears did it's best to climb in the window and he smacked it on the snout with his clawhammer and it retreated. An emergency call to the F&W brought a chopper with two officers and snares, close to $1500.00 per hour when our wages were pathetic.

They snared and helo-transported these bears and went back to the office to write the never-ending reports....both bears were back within two days..... I offered to be flown in and use my .375H&H to do what SHOULD have been done BEFORE the FIRST helo trip, but,.........

In any case, those bruins would not have had dread "halitosis" when they next attacked some idiot.........

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