What Smells Attract Bears? [Question Answered]

Preparing for a camping trip is not the easiest task. You have to think about packing, getting to the campsite, setting yourself at the campsite, and so on. Another thing that you have to think about is the wildlife, especially if you are camping in a territory where there are bears.

What does this mean? Well, if there are bears or other wildlife in the woods, you should be careful not to attract their attention in any way. Campers, in general, have to be respectful of the animals' space and their way of life while also doing their best to avoid them for many reasons.

Bears, usually black bears, can often visit campsites because of all the smells that attract them. It can be food or something as simple as your perfume that attracts them. So, to learn what smells attract bears, stick around for the rest of this guide. Trust me, you need this information, especially if you plan to camp on the bear’s territory!


bear in nature

What Smells Can Attract Bears?

To help keep all the bears away from your campsite, I want to tell you more about the scents that attract them the most.

If you manage to conceal the smells of these things, that would be great. If you can find some alternatives and take those instead, that would be even better.

So, let’s see which things can draw a bear's attention:


All kinds of meat, both cooked and raw, can attract bears. If you plan on taking some meat with you on your trip, make sure that you store it so that the smell is as concealed as possible. For that purpose, you may need a container that seals well.

While raw meat attracts bears, cooked meat does as well. I know that many hikers like to cook bacon over the campfire during their trips because it is easy to make but also gives quite a lot of energy.

As tasty as it is, bacon has a strong scent that can attract bears. So, you might want to skip eating it in a place with wildlife.


Fish is another thing that has a strong scent. You might not know how much the smell of fish can spread around, but the bears are aware of it. If they as much as pick up the fact that someone is cooking fish near them, you can rest assured that they will want to check it out.

The same goes for fish in cans, like, for example, tuna. If you must take some with you, make sure that you store the can as well as possible after eating it.

Under no circumstance should you leave it lying around the campsite, while you would also make sure that you do not litter in the area.


This may come as a surprise to some, but bears enjoy eating everything sweet that they can get their hands on. If you take some sweet or licorice on your trip, make sure that you keep it stored in your backpack. Then, keep the backpack in your car or the tent to conceal the smell.

You will be in big trouble if you leave the candy sitting around. You may even want to leave the candy behind for shorter hiking trips as it is not such an essential thing to bring. You can enjoy it at home without fearing any unwanted guests coming around.


I get it; vanilla has a very attractive smell. I am guilty of sometimes wanting to have a perfume or something that smells like vanilla. While that scent is great when going out on the town, it is not the best when going hiking.

Few hikers are likely to take a vanilla extract or any vanilla-based food on their trips. Still, you should remember that perfumes, body lotions, and similar things can also attract bears.

These things will smell as attractive to the bears as you, but it would be best if you leave them at home.

Onion and garlic

To many, onion and garlic have an unbearable odor. Even food with these ingredients can smell quite strong. The same goes for sprays and similar things that contain these ingredients.

If you want to stay out of trouble on the trips, you can leave all onions and garlic at home or store them as well as possible. You should consider taking a tote bag and putting the things that smell the most in it.

That way, you can hang the bag on a tree using a string or rope. So, even if the bears smell them, they will not be able to get to them or reach them.


 Last but not least, there is the fruit. All kinds of fruit, but most of all berries, attract bears. You should not eat any berries, apples, grapes, oranges, or peaches near your tent.

Since fruit is full of vitamins, you may want to take some on the trip. If you do that, make sure that you keep the fruit packed in a backpack or store it away from your campsite. That way, even if the bears come from it, they will not get too near you.

Are Bears Attracted to Human Scent?

As mentioned, there are quite a lot of smells that attract bears. Besides food and sweets and all the other things, there is another thing that can attract the bears – the regular smells that we humans have!

The thing is that everything can attract the attention of a bear – including a smell that we as people do not notice. Bears have senses of smell that are up to seven times stronger than ours, so they can smell things that people cannot.

While bears are attracted to the regular smell of people, they are even more attracted to the smell of human urine and menstrual blood. Urine and menstrual blood have strong scents even for us people. You can imagine how those things might seem to a bear!

So, if you are camping, make sure that you find a spot that will serve as your bathroom, and that is away from your actual campsite. If you do not have such an option, consider diluting your urine or blood to make it smell a bit milder.

Do Coffee Grounds Attract Bears?

It is safe to say that you will be drinking your coffee with a few guests if you are using regular coffee grounds at a campsite. Coffee grounds have a pretty strong smell that bears consider attractive. If they notice the smell, you can rest assured that they will want to inspect it further.

So, if you are set on using coffee grounds, make sure that you keep them in a container with a strong seal. Such a container will not allow the smell to get out of it, and it might not attract that many bears.

When you brew the coffee, try to do it as quickly as possible. Dispose of the used grounds as far away from the campsite as possible. You can throw them anywhere, even on the ground. They are not the wrong type of trash – they are great fertilizers!

What Smells Can Attract Bear

Do Bears Like the Smell of Vinegar?

Of all the things that black bears like, the one that they do not is the smell of vinegar. The smell of vinegar can repel bears as only a few other things can.

If you want to keep bears as far away from your campsite as possible, you can always use vinegar. Consider making sprays that are part water and part vinegar. Then, use the sprays over your tent and surroundings to keep the bears away.

Still, be careful with the amount of vinegar you use. Vinegar has a strong smell that even you can find repelling if you overdo it with the spray.

Wrap Up

Thank you for sticking with me through this guide. I hope that the information you read helped you realize which smells would attract bears. Do your best to avoid having these smells near you on camping trips of you might get a surprise visit!

If you are traveling to Bear Country, Yellowstone National Park, or any other place, keep these things in mind. Remember to feel respectful towards the wildlife living in the woods. We have to learn to live together with them because this planet belongs equally to animals and us!

Andrew Mullen

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