No moth balls for bears!

10:07 a.m. on March 3, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

a.k.a. gt

I noticed some advice given below to a bp'er that stated that moth balls will repel bears. That advice could get someone hurt, or a bear killed. It's similar to the belief that rattlesnakes won't crawl over a horsehair rope. Bears will investigate anything with an unusual smell, and I mean anything. Tests done in controlled conditions in Washington State showed that any strong smell, including moth balls, skunk oil, or pepper spray, would attract their attention. Grizzlies have been spotted happily lapping up battery acid from an old truck battery, and I've seen black bears in the Smokies sampling stove fuel. Hang the food or use caniters, and keep a clean camp and you'll have nothing to worry about. I have several pages on bear country safety and etiquette on my webpage if you'd like to check them out at http://www.griztrax.net/bearsafe.html .

12:12 p.m. on March 3, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

Canister question for gt

Hey gt, good to see you on this board. Your website is excellent and always appreciate your input on anything to do with the Smokies/W. Carolina. We've all seen the hard plastic "bearproof" canisters with the flush lid. It seems to me that an adult bear would be able force open these canisters in a way similar to how polar bears break through ice to access seals: stand above the canister and come down hard with both front paws, buckling the canister to the point where the lid will pop out. Maybe I'm off base here, but stranger things have happened concerning curious bears and their next potential meal. If you had to use a canister, what's your choice? Also, I'd like to know what your opinion is of the Ursack (single-layer) for Eastern U.S. backpacking. Sure miss the Smokies, but hope to head down that way later in the spring.

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Quote:

I noticed some advice given below to a bp'er that stated that moth balls will repel bears. That advice could get someone hurt, or a bear killed. It's similar to the belief that rattlesnakes won't crawl over a horsehair rope. Bears will investigate anything with an unusual smell, and I mean anything. Tests done in controlled conditions in Washington State showed that any strong smell, including moth balls, skunk oil, or pepper spray, would attract their attention. Grizzlies have been spotted happily lapping up battery acid from an old truck battery, and I've seen black bears in the Smokies sampling stove fuel. Hang the food or use caniters, and keep a clean camp and you'll have nothing to worry about. I have several pages on bear country safety and etiquette on my webpage if you'd like to check them out at http://www.griztrax.net/bearsafe.html .

11:24 p.m. on March 3, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

Canister question

I would never use the bear bags, unless I hung them from a secure line between two trees, and I'd choose a lighter setup if I did that. The problem with the bear bags is that they provide a means for the bear to carry away your food, even if they can't get into it. Even though they're supposed impossible for the bear to tear into, I've seen too many bears tearing up a mountainside with a pack securely in tow, to trust anything that the bear can grip. With that in mind, it's also important not to try tying a canister to a tree or rock - that just gives him a handle to haul something that he'd ordinarily not be able to carry. Also, we shouldn't put stash the canisters near our camp, or by a river or lake. An angry, hungry bear could easily bat the thing into the water, leaving you without food. The PVC canisters are incredibly strong, and should withstand just about anything that can be done to them by a bear, even when it's a Griz. I've seen some film of a huge Griz trying to get into one, and even when it was wedged against a stone, he couldn't apply the force needed to open it. I wonder, though, if in extremely cold conditions, such as around Glacier Bay, if the canister might be a bit more brittle. Luckily, here in the Smokies, I've never needed more than the cables, or a good rope system. Out west, I've used the canisters when kayak camping (it seems like they were called the Backpackers Stash), but don't bother on the trail. I do most of my backpacking in the west in the Rockies, below timberline, and have always been successful in hanging my food well away from camp. Around the genius bears of Yosemite, though, I think I'd choose the canisters. It's amazing how smart the bears in Yosemite are...

12:11 p.m. on March 4, 2002 (EST)
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Thanks very much for the great website! While it is aimed at grizzlies, much of it is applicable to black bears as well, based on my discussions with Yosemite rangers and the information I get from Herrero. Do you plan a black bear section as well?

2:27 p.m. on March 4, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

Bear Canisters

I would like to use a canister, but I can only find one size (huge) by one manufacturer (Garcia). What if I don't need to carry an entire weeks' worth of food? Doesn't anyone make a more modest size canister?

3:06 p.m. on March 4, 2002 (EST)
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409 forum posts
Q: Have you ever smelled moth balls?

A: How did you get their little legs apart?

Old woodsman adage: a pine needle fell in the forest. The deer heard it, the eagle saw it, the bear smelled it.

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I noticed some advice given below to a bp'er that stated that moth balls will repel bears.

Here's what I said:

": : Or double bag in ziplocks with moth balls in the outside bag..."

Quote:

* are you serious?
"Very. Bear won't want to eat a moth ball and if that's all he can smell, your food will be safe."

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That advice could get someone hurt, or a bear killed.

A tad melodramatic perhaps...

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It's similar to the belief that rattlesnakes won't crawl over a horsehair rope.

Not in the same league I'd argue.

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Bears will investigate anything with an unusual smell, and I mean anything.

Agreed. But...note that I said "double bagged". Hopefully they won't smell anything. But...if they do, and its a moth ball, there's a chance they could be turned off from investigating further? Or, you have info that bears like to eat moth balls? That'd be interesting. Napthalene is nasty stuff.

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Tests done in controlled conditions in Washington State showed that any strong smell, including moth balls, skunk oil, or pepper spray, would attract their attention. Grizzlies have been spotted happily lapping up battery acid from an old truck battery, and I've seen black bears in the Smokies sampling stove fuel.

I'd argue that even subtle smells would attract a bear.

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Hang the food or use caniters, and keep a clean camp and you'll have nothing to worry about.

Might be a bit more to it than that but yeah. Good advice.

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I have several pages on bear country safety and etiquette on my webpage if you'd like to check them out at http://www.griztrax.net/bearsafe.html .

Nice website. If your purpose was a coming out party for announcing your website, I'd suggest a more tactful method.
I'd be really curious if you could site sources of information on moth balls and a bear's affinity for them...

Below is a quick websearch. If moth balls and bears is a myth in the snakes and horse hair catagory (I'm callin' BS), then its a well established one.

From: http://www.crcd.org/bearfact.html

"The longer a bear remains in the vicinity of your home or campsite, the more likely a conflict will occur. Try to prevent a conflict by removing or deterring access to attractants (e.g., food, poultry and small livestock, fruits and melons, pet food, etc.). First, clean up residual trash, food, greasy barbecues and anything else causing odors that might tempt a bear. Use basic deterrents, including dogs, radios, house and porch lights (activate lights with motion detectors), moth balls or bowls of ammonia placed outside at doors and windows."

From: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/uh101.pdf

"Many mammals can occaisionally be discouraged from entering enclosed areas with moth balls..."

From: http://www.globalairphotos.com/globalbirdphotos/book2drecent.html

"His job was to find nests for bird photographer Ervio Sian and he has developed some unique ways to ensure the welfare of his subjects. He always carries ground up moth balls with him when scouting out nests and when an active ground nest is discovered, he sprinkles the dust in the vicinity to kill his own smells. Glen believes wild animals such as coyotes, raccoons, and squirrels dislike the smell and make detours to avoid it thereby not destroying the nest."

From http://sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/backpacking/trailtips.htm

"Use moth balls (hang them in a separate net bag) to diffuse the smell of food you've hung.
Use the Sierra Club method for hanging food. It works better than the counter balance method."

From: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/rwgross/worksinp.htm

"6. For a time, the trick was to store your food in the tree with a few moth balls in the bag. It was thought that it would mask food odor and discourage the bear. Then, one night, the bear got the food along with the moth balls. So then the bear associated moth balls with food. For a time, the backpackers that used moth balls were actually attracting bears. Or so goes the legend. "

From: http://www.crittercontrol.com/animal_antics.htm

"While some people think you can repel nuisance animals from houses by using moth balls, ammonia, bright lights or loud radios, care should be taken when relying on these or other home remedies. A few case in points:
A well-intentioned police dispatcher recommended that a homeowner use moth balls to repel raccoons from the chimney. The homeowner developed toxic blood poisoning from the moth balls, caused by a back-draft from the fireplace."

Let's see those moth ball bear studies! Hmmm...perhaps someone could head to the zoo or jellystone's bear pen and huck in a moth ball and see if a bear laps it up...that'd be interestin'...

All in good fun...

Brian in SLC

10:59 p.m. on March 4, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

I'll stand by what I said...

It's up to you as to how you conduct yourself in bear country. I avoid carrying smelly substances to scatter around campsites, and will continue to advise other folks to do the same. For me, it's worked quite well. I've lived in bear country my whole life, have backpacked in bear country nearly every weekend for the past two years, and spend anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks in Griz country each year on average. All without any negative problems with bears.

As for the 'reference' to the photographer that scatters ground up moth balls, "He always carries ground up moth balls with him when scouting out nests and when an active ground nest is discovered, he sprinkles the dust in the vicinity to kill his own smells." that's pretty poor advice for anyone that practices LNT camping. Would anyone here like to set up a tent atop a spot where someone has ground up mothballs and scattered the dust? It may work well on gophers or meadow mice, but I wouldn't want to do it in Griz country.

11:08 p.m. on March 4, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

a.k.a. griztrax
Black bear section....

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Thanks very much for the great website! While it is aimed at grizzlies, much of it is applicable to black bears as well, based on my discussions with Yosemite rangers and the information I get from Herrero. Do you plan a black bear section as well?

We're actually aiming at protecting the wild places that wildlife of all sorts needs to survive. Carl Core, the guy that does much of the Griz photography for the site, has thousands of photos of Griz and black bear that he's taken during his years in Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming. I photograph primarily black bear (living near the Smokies helps), and we'll probably start doing more on the black bear before long. We've been doing the page since back in 95, and if I remember correctly, we used to have a lot more on the black bear, but didn't reload it when we changed servers. It's fun, and we've met some great people over the years.

I'm no expert by any means, but we've got to know a lot of folks in bear management and research over the years. Bears seem to be the one thing that most folks want to see when in wild country, and they've always been a source of fascination for me.

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