Bears & Menstruation: Myth or Fact?

topic posted Wed, September 27, 2006 - 3:26 PM by  Sublime Mango
OK so many people say that a woman who is having her period will attract a bear(s). Or if she is going to start.

Is this true or false?
posted by:
Sublime Mango
SF Bay Area
  • Myth.. they like bacon and honey though :-)
    • Tis what I thought. I hate the fact though that when I tell people I had a bear outside my tent that chose to hang out most of the night the first thing they ask is "Do you have your period?"

      Bacon!!! Yummmm!
      • I was just in Denali and they never said anything about it. My girlfriend was listening closely 'cause, well, y'know. This stuff is kinda hard for guys to talk about. But, let's just say it was important to her at the time. In their orientation video they did mention feminine hygiene, but only to say you gotta pack that out just like you do used toilet paper.

        We had no bear encounters in the park. Even after I smeared her with honey. Yum.
      • It probably started with the book "Night of the Grizzly" back in the 70's. I think the book frightened a lot of regular folks. Personally, I would think that one out of twenty eight women who are attacked by bears are on the first day of their period. Actually, I don't know the statistics, but it's probably a good guess.

        Still it's a very good idea to put your used tampons and pads in a ziploc baggie and keep them in your bear cannister or a food storage locker. Never leave anything laying around your tent that smells remotely like food or something good to eat if you're in bear country. Bears will even eat the bandaids out of your first aid kit if you have Neosporin in your kit.

        Most of the people who are attacked and killed by bears are males. This may be because males are more likely to be in Grizzly territory, or because they're bringing home the bacon..... (hee hee...)
  • I have gone backpacking while on my period many times, I have also had my share of bear encounters, but I cannot say that there was any correlation between the two in my experience. I would say it is probably a myth but i would be interested in hearing about the experiences other women have had with this.
  • Unsu...
    There was a video some time ago about a man who dowsed himself with deer female sex potion (something they secrete and attracts the male deers), and a male deer came out of nowhere and severely beat him up.

    Is there some sort of pheromone that human females share with bear females? I'm no doctor, but I am a scientist at heart. It isn't entirely inconceivable that menstruation and bear visits may be connected. Bears like fish. And if it isn't fish they're after, pray it isn't sex.
    • Def pack-in, pack-out. And yeah EVERYTHING always goes in a locker or canister. :)

      I googled this yesterday and found out the whole thing started when 2 women were attacked in yellowstone in 1967. One was bleeding so then all these assumptions were made (why does that not surprise me) anyway so it sparked a bunch of studies. Including placing used tampons around to see if there was any attraction. Apparently all these studies concluded there really is no corulation. I also read an article in backpacker it's main focus was women's hygiene. They mentioned the bear thing but said there has been no proven link but of course reminded us all of the pack it out thing.

      I guess part of me is now thinking well...if a bear is attracted to that scent why wouldn't s/he be attracted to the scent of human sweat?

      Ummm...are you linking fish to something female? 'Cause frankly thta's not cool. But yeah, that's hope to god bears are not wanting to mate with us. Although we'd get some serious mountaineers out of that breeding I'm sure!
      • > A Museum Educator delivers your Portable Museum and does a one-hour, hands-on artifact exploration with your class. Students work in small groups to analyze artifacts and “read” the stories they tell. Then you can explore the trunk in your classroom for the rest of your 2-week rental period! <

        I've wondered that too. I mean, they don't call it poly-pew for nothing. I get stainky after a couple days of hauling a pack around.
        And what if you used scented dryer sheets on your clothes just before your trip? Would the fresh smell of bounce be enough?

        I think bears might associate at least sweat with humans, which (thankfully for us) they don't really connect to food. At least not easy food. And, really, bears don't ~want~ to fight, it's just sometimes we're real scarey to them and they feel forced defend themselves.

        p.s., thanks for the research, Mango!
  • Amy
    offline 2
    Myth. In my personal experience menstrual blood doesn't attract bears, at least Black Bears. It also seems to be untrue that having sex in the wilderness attracts bears. I haven't hiked much in grizzly country, so I can't say for grizzlies.

    Slight tangent:

    Women, why are you using tampons or pads on the trail?
    Consider trying the Instead Cup
    or the
    Diva Cup
    No, I don't work for either one of these companies, but I use the Instead when I'm having my period while backpacking (it looks a bit like a diaphram) then wash it well and reuse it. It sure beats carrying around used tampons.

    Happy Trails!


    Amy Racina
    Author: Angels in the Wilderness
    ISBN: 0971088896

    A 60-foot fall onto granite. Both legs shattered. Off-trail. Utterly alone in deep wilderness. Backpacker Amy Racina’s compelling new memoir “Angels in the Wilderness” chronicles her terrifying true-life ordeal.
    • Unsu...
      I've had two interactions with black bears. Both times when they heard me they ran away. I didn't have my period either time. I didn't have any issues with animals going after my used tampons while hiking the AT. I would just put them in a ziploc bag wrapped in T.P.

        I use it and it rocks. Trekking through Patagonia, Mt Whitney, High Sierra Trail, Burning name is THE best. Plus it is totally environmentally friendly and saves money!!!
        • Myth

          But it's a good idea to have all the menfolk urinate around the perimeter of your camp...

          • Funny story - I was doing a long-distance hike with my girlfriend. There was another female hiker that claimed that she urinated around her tent each night to keep bears away. I'm not sure if she really did this, but she was making this claim as fact. Personally I would pay money to see how exactly she pulled that maneuver off, but that's another story. Anyhow, my girlfriend pointed out that she DOESN'T urinate around our tent each night and WE have never been bothered by bears either.
            • I have found that urinating near camp only brings in the deer, especially during the summer months when they are craving salt. Deer will eat any plant that has been pissed upon and will even lick the soil.

              Granted, I do like to mark my territory, but I'm not sure if it really does much to deter bears. At best, it might keep some animals occupied for a moment or two while they check your scent.
              • And, of course, attracting small animal (aka, prey) to your campsite is a great idea.

                In the Enchantments (a permit-only area in the Cascades, not far from Seattle) you are advised not to pee on plants 'cause the mountain goats will strip them clean. Pee on rocks to save the plants.

                • It’s great to see everyone’s opinion on this, but we are hardly going to get a realistic answer this way.

                  To get an answer we need something more scientific.
                  One way I could see that we could do so would be something like the old saran wrap commercials where they release a hunger bear and it eats the food covered in the other wrap.

                  So we would need a couple of women wrapped in saran wrap one of whom was menstruating, and a bear . . . or may be not.

                  Seriously, all we are getting is anecdotal stories that will not really give us any concrete information.

                  Is anyone aware of any actual research done on this topic?
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.
                    Black Bears

                    Rogers et al. (1991) recorded the responses of 26 free-ranging black bears (Ursus americanus) to used tampons from 26 women and the responses of 20 free ranging black bears to four menstruating women at different days of their flow.

                    Menstrual odors were essentially ignored by black bears of all sex and age classes. In an extensive review of black bear attacks across North America, no instances of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women was found (Cramond 1981, Herrero 1985, Rogers et al. 1991).
                    • Although there is no evidence that grizzly and black bears are overly attracted to menstrual odors more than any other odor, certain precautions should be taken to reduce the risks of attack.

                      The following precautions are recommended:

                      1. Use pre-moistened, unscented cleaning towelettes.

                      2. Use internal tampons instead of external pads.

                      3. Do not bury tampons or pads (pack it in - pack it out). A bear may smell buried tampons or pads and dig them up. By providing bears a small food "reward", this action may attract bears to other menstruating women.

                      4. Place all used tampons, pads, and towelettes in double zip-loc baggies and store them unavailable to bears, just as you would store food. This means hung at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk.

                      5. Tampons can be burned in a campfire, but remember that it takes a very hot fire and considerable time to completely burn them. Any charred remains must be removed from the fire pit and stored with your other garbage. Also, burning of any garbage is odorous and may attract bears to your campsite.

                      6. Many feminine products are heavily scented. Use only unscented or lightly scented items. Cosmetics, perfumes, and deodorants are unnecessary and may act as an attractant to bears.

                      7. Follow food storage regulations and recommendations so you can avoid attracting a bear into your camp with other odors. All odorous items that may attract bears, including food, cooking and food storage gear, toiletries, and garbage, must be kept secured from bears.
                    • Thanks Alice, this is really helpful! do you happen to remember the journals were these are published? what field of study even? ecology maybe? biology? I'd like to take a peak....and make copies to show people that worry about such things. Yea, I burn them once I get below 10,000 feet, lucky I did not have to deal with it on my last long trip....

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