When it comes to camping, people are aware that some locations are more prone to be visited by bears than others. This can be intriguing and appalling at the same time. Some people chose to go to Wildlife Parks to view the wildlife (especially bears), and some want to stay on the safe side. Learning about things that attract or repel bears can be a game-changer for your camping experience.
Bears, as well as other wildlife, are attracted to unusual scents due to their inborn curiosity, but they won’t come if you light a smoke. Burning the material and creating smoke does not necessarily attract bears because it is not in the animals’ nature. Cigarettes and tobacco lovers may not have any more advantages or disadvantages compared to other campers.
Is there an additional risk to attract animals, especially these kinds of predators? If yes, is there a difference between unsmoked tobacco, vaporizing cigarettes, or the leftovers carried around with your other trash?
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What Are Bears Attracted To?
Running around with the wrong information has never really helped anyone. Professionals from the National Park Service are the best go-to source to ask for any information about wildlife, how to attract it, and how to stay safe.
According to the Park Service at Yosemite National Park, bears are attracted to food odors. This refers to any type of food storage. From the animals’ perspective, anything that humans have packed is considered food. Because of this, even cigarettes and tobacco may seem like an interesting treat for these majestic and curious beasts.
Attraction to Smoke Comes From Experience
Naturally, bears are not attracted to smoke, it is in their instinct to avoid it because of forest fires during hot summers. It is the primal instinct. However, once a bear gets a hold of any food that was not properly secured, it is not uncommon for them to start associating campfires, and any other activities people may engage in, with food.
Animals that are habituated to smoke and associate it with food can attempt to approach you. Although these scenarios are unlikely and are not even possible, according to some campers, it is best to keep everything neatly packed and safe.
Why Are Bears Attracted to Everything?
Understanding why bears might want to dig into your food storage container, even if there is no meat or other natural smells, is quite simple. Unfortunately, some people don’t know the basic biology and classification of animals they might come across during a camping trip.
Bears are classified as carnivores, meaning that they eat meat. But this classification is only due to their anatomic characteristics. In reality, these great animals are omnivores, like humans, meaning they eat both meat and plants.
Depending on the type of bear, their diet can have more meat or plants. Eastern black bears, for example, have about 90% of their diet plant-based. They eat grass, leaves, buds, flowers, mushrooms, berries, and nutty fruit. The majority of the meat they eat comes from insects. This does not mean that they are cute and cuddly! Wildlife animals should stay wild, and they can cause serious injuries if they feel threatened by a human.
Camping on beer-friendly sites will not necessarily mean you will be able to see bears. If you want to be able to observe them, keep in mind that they will walk away from any music and noise. Seeing a bear can be a true highlight of your trip, but there are some rules you should keep in mind to keep both you and the animal safe.
In nature it is uncommon for bears to simply approach people, they can even be afraid of them. Attacks on humans often happen due to the lack of knowledge, and if the beast feels threatened or provoked by people. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Never Surprise a Bear
For those who have more experience with wildlife, you already know that a momma bear can be quite feisty. On the other hand, if you are a rookie, seek guidance from a local ranger or even book a bear-watching tour with a local guide.
Making some noise is very important when being in the backcountry. Clap your hands and be loud, especially if you have limited sight (especially in a dense forest).
If you are wondering what type of sound you should make, choose two types and repeat them after each other. Bears will raise their heads out of curiosity, but when they hear repetition they will likely turn and run off to the safety of the denser forest. Even though they have immaculate smell and sight, some terrains, such as river trails, will reduce the hearing distance.
Keep a Safe Distance
People who love observing bears should never get closer than 100 meters. Keep in mind that these animals are big, have teeth and claws that can rip the flesh off your bones.
Never challenge them or provoke them, and always resist the urge to get a closer picture of the beast. It can cost you your life.
Give the Bear an Advantage
Wildlife hikers can sometimes encounter animals on their trails. Coming across a bear will raise your adrenaline, but you must stay calm.
Don’t cross their path and slowly retreat. In the case that retreating is not an option, observe the terrain quickly and slowly try to make a detour where you can continue walking at a safe distance. Maybe you will be lucky and the bear didn’t even notice you, keep your cool and stay quiet. Once you have made a safe distance, start making lots of noise to prevent another closer encounter.
Stay Away From the Bears’ Food Cache
In the event that you stumble upon some leftovers, turn around and go far away. bears will sometimes leave their pray, hidden and will get very protective.
Also, if you don’t see any dead animal, but can smell it, it means that it is probably near you. Keep a close eye on other signs of a bear’s presence, and carefully move through the terrain until you feel you have covered a safe distance.
How to Prevent Bears From Approaching You When Camping
Strategizing is key if you want to enjoy a good smoke in the great outdoors. First of all, prepare in advance and learn how to properly store everything in your camping gear, from hand sanitizers to food and energy bars. Second, take some knowledge of the anatomy of the bear to your advantage.
A bear’s sense of smell is also seven times stronger than that of a bloodhound, according to the American Bear Association. It uses its sharp nose to find a mate, detect threats and locate foods. This is the reason why you can sometimes encounter a dangerous and unwanted guest at your campsite.
Scent deterrents in a bear are 100 times more sensitive than a human. Do you know how bad it smells when your nose picks up on bleach or ammonia fumes? Imagine how they can repel more sensitive snouts.
DIY Bear Repellant
Use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners around trash cans and other areas where strong scents could attract bears. In practice, it is important to keep in mind that we want to preserve nature. Because of this, people use buckets filled with bleach or ammonia, punch some holes and place them near campsites or food storage containers. Another option is to use strong scented pine-based cleaners (but nothing with a fresh or fruity smell). Also, remember that mixing bleach and ammonia can produce lethal fumes that can be deadly for animals and humans alike.
Never Try Feeding a Bear
People passionate about animals may try to ignore the warnings that the animals should not be fed. Once you start feeding a bear, you are telling him that people are equal to food. This can cause several issues.
First of all, fed bears will lose their natural fear of people. Because of this they can get bold and become dangerous. On the other hand, if they are young, inexperienced and without proper role models, they are easy targets for poachers.
On the other hand, bears that once experienced feeding time will purposely look for other campsites in search of new ‘food sources’ aka humans. They can even go to the extent of starting to roam in a picnic and even urban areas in search of food. A sad but true statement is that ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’. Depriving any wild of its natural routine and habitat will impact their social functioning and abilities to survive in the wild, for one reason or another.
So, Does Cigarette Smoke Attract Bears?
From what we have learned so far, bears are curious creatures and can be attracted by anything. People use aromatic products for food preparations, and self-care and all of those things simply smell tasty.
Regular cigarette smoke may not directly cause an association of people and food, but if you forget to turn out the cigarette and throw away the bud, you can cause some serious damage to the wildlife if you cause a forest fire. It is important to take all measures and pay extra attention if you like to enjoy a smoke here and there.
Using tobacco or event aromatized electronic cigarettes while vaping might smell extra delicious. If you have an addiction, or rather a passion for smoking, try to choose products that are neutral when it comes to the smell itself and you should be just fine.