The Bears have Spoken and Menstrual Scent Doesn’t Make the Menu
The idea that bears are attracted to menstrual blood has been a persistent myth in the world of outdoor enthusiasts and hikers for years. This belief has often led to unnecessary fear and anxiety among women who love spending time in the wilderness.
In this blog, we’ll look to explore the science and facts behind this myth and provide a more accurate understanding of the relationship between menstrual blood and bears.
The powerful myth which formed on a night over 50 years ago, known as the Night of the Grizzlies, made women believe that it is dangerous for them to be in the woods while menstruating. The belief that bears are irresistibly drawn to menstrual blood likely stems from the misconception that bears are attracted to the scent of blood in general. While it is true that bears have a keen sense of smell and can detect the scent of blood from a considerable distance, this does NOT necessarily mean they are specifically attracted to menstrual blood.
Bears and Their Sense of Smell:Bears have an exceptionally good sense of smell, which they use primarily for finding food. They can detect odors from miles away and are skilled at distinguishing between various scents.
Food Odors vs. Menstrual Blood:
Bears are primarily attracted to the smell of food, particularly human food. They have a strong natural instinct to seek out calorie-rich sources, especially before hibernation. This instinct can lead them to campsites, where they may be drawn to food scraps, improperly stored food, or cooking odors. In contrast, the scent of menstrual blood is not associated with food, and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that bears are specifically attracted to it.
Bear Behavior:Bears are generally wary of humans and prefer to avoid contact. In most cases, they will go out of their way to avoid encounters with people. This natural wariness extends to menstruating women as well. If a bear were to come across the scent of menstrual blood, it would not likely be any more attracted to it than to any other human scent.
Scented Hygiene Products:
While there is no evidence to suggest that bears are attracted to menstrual blood, it is essential to maintain good menstrual hygiene practices to minimize odors. Curious wildlife may be attracted to scented period products and other hygiene products like wipes, so opt for unscented products if possible.
Until you are in a place to properly dispose of used products in a garbage can or at home, store your hygiene waste in odor-proof bags. To help control any odor worries, you can add an unused tea bag or a few teaspoons of coffee grounds or baking soda in your waste bag. Do not bury your period products in cat holes since they are not biodegradable and animals may dig them up.
To avoid attracting animals to your campsite at night, store used products securely in a bear-proof container and away from your sleeping area. They should be stored, along with your food and other toiletries, in a bear canister, a bear locker if available, the trunk of your car, or a bear hang. This helps maintain a safe distance between humans and wildlife, promoting the natural balance of the ecosystem.
More tips from the National Park Service.
And don’t forget to brush up on the 7 Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.
Precautions for Bear Country:
These precautions include using bear-resistant food storage, carrying bear spray, hiking in groups, and making noise to alert bears to your presence. Your risk of bear attack is highest while hiking in the backcountry. You can reduce the risks by:
Good Planning - know before you go by finding out what bear regulations are in place. Some places have specific storage requirements such as lockers, cables, or bear canisters. Certain parks may require the carrying of bear spray.
Hike in a Group - hiking with 3 or more people and staying close together make it less likely that a bear will be startled or attack. Always stay alert for bears.
Timing - avoid hiking at dawn, sunset or night when bears are most active
Be Loud - make noise when you hike so you don’t surprise a bear. Clap your hands, shout, clack your trekking poles, talk loudly. This is especially important in areas of poor visibility or where sound might be muffled like by rushing water.
Stay on the Trail - staying on maintained, designated hiking trails reduces your risk of a bear encounter
Bear Spray - carry it and know how to use it. Store the spray in a belt holster where you can quickly grab it. Practice taking the spray out and how to unlock the nozzle before you go. Here is a great video from the National Park Service on How to use bear spray
Don’t run - if you do encounter a bear, back away slowly, don’t turn and run.
The belief that bears are attracted to menstrual blood is a persistent myth that has caused unnecessary fear and anxiety among women who enjoy outdoor activities. However, it is essential to separate fact from fiction when it comes to bear behavior. Bears are primarily attracted to the scent of food, not menstrual blood. While it's crucial to take precautions when hiking or camping in bear country, menstruating women need not be unduly concerned about this specific aspect.
To enjoy the wilderness safely, focus on bear awareness, follow best practices for bear encounters, and maintain proper menstrual hygiene. By doing so, you can confidently explore the beauty of the outdoors and appreciate the wonders of nature without undue worry about bears being attracted to your menstrual blood. Always prioritize safety and seek guidance from local authorities or park rangers for specific recommendations when venturing into bear territory.
Dani and Becca