What Are the Smells That Repel Bears Most Effectively? (2023)

I guess you still remember the story of two friends and a bear where one leaves his friend in danger and climbs on a tree out of fear and the other acts like a dead person to save his life.

Well, my intention is not to remind you of the story or the moral, rather give you enough wisdom so that you know how to repel bears in case you discover yourself in such a real-life scenario!

There are certain smells that repel bears and once you know how to apply them, you might be able to save yourself if you happen to meet one, while camping or hiking outdoor in a bear prone area.

Table of Contents

Things That Attract Bears

What Are the Smells That Repel Bears Most Effectively? (1)

Before we get to know the smells that keep the bears away, it would be better to know about the things that attract bears first, so you never take a risk of inviting them unknowingly in the very first place.

You know it well, prevention is better than cure.

Berry Bushes

Bears are fond of berries and they get easily attracted by it’s smell. If you don’t want bears to visit your place, either select your campsite where there is no berry plant or don’t plant berry trees if you live in bear prone areas.

Bee Hives

Bears love to bee larvae as they get protein from it. While eating bee larvae, honey is obviously a bonus for them to have. If you want to keep bears away from your place, then make sure you put an electric fence around the bee-hives of your yard.


Odors can simply send a message to the bears around that you are staying in their neighborhood.

If you don’t have bear-proof bins, then don’t store your garbage outside, especially fish and meat waste. You better store trash in a locked place until they are picked up.

When it comes to fish and meat waste, it’s more preferable to freeze them and minimize the odor, before you finally put them in the trash can for picking up.

Bird Feeders

As an omnivorous animal, bears eat both plants and meat. If you leave seeds for birds in the yard, then that might work as a turn on for bears to visit your place.

If you have bird feeders in your yard, then try to place them high enough, out of the reach of bears. Somehow, if you encounter a bear, avoid putting seeds at least for a month.

BBQ Grills

The smell of your BBQ meat can attract the bears to have some share of the food. So, make sure you clean your BBQ and apply some apple cider vinegar as a deterrent for bears.

Don’t forget to empty the grease as well.

Fruit Trees

Bears have a pretty good attraction for ripened fruits and also fallen ones. If you don’t harvest such fruits on a regular basis, then it works like a welcoming smell for bears.

Make sure you put an electric fence around if you want to keep your orchard feeding you.


If you are using compost for gardening or any other purpose, remember one thing- never throw fish and meat waste in the compost mix. Don’t even leave any kind of rotten food waste in your backyard as well.

Citronella Products

Bears find citronella-based products pretty attractive and they might attack you if you have such items spreading the smell. So, you better use other fragrance based products that don’t have a citronella kind of smell.

Formic Acid

Due to their attraction for the smell of formic acid, bears often attack ant colonies, refrigerator insulation, warm tub covers, cycle seats, etc. So, you better take care of things as they are not always replaceable.

As you got to know about the attractants from this list, now it’s your job to remove all these from your hiking place or house to save yourself from probable attacks from bears.

Why Smell Deterrents?

Some countries and specific areas are well known for having bears. But, that doesn’t stop camping and hiking enthusiasts from playing ‘man vs wild’ games in those places.

Discovering a big black bear just beside your camping area isn’t a pleasant experience to have. To avoid such a scary probable scenario in those places, the very thing you need is bear repellent.

If you want to repel bears, then there are several deterrents you can try such as- electronic deterrents, radios, and scent deterrents. But among all these methods, smell deterrents are most effective.

You may ask, why?

Well, bears have an acute sense of smell, and smell repellents are comparatively safer than other deterrents, as bears won’t be coming closer to even face other repellents, once you use them.What Are the Smells That Repel Bears Most Effectively? (2)

They will leave without even bothering you as they hate those smells.

4 Smells that Repel Bears

A bear’s sense of smell is almost 2000 times sharper than humans, that’s why repelling them with the right smell works best.

Ammonia or Bleach fume

The fumes of ammonia or bleach are not even a pleasant smell for us humans and thus you can assume how harsh it is for bears.

Ammonia or bleach fume based deterrents are effective enough to repel bears as they hate these smells so much.

You can use this deterrent for trash bins and on other things that spread attractive smells to bears.

But remember one thing, never make a mixture of these two, as their combination can be deadly for both bears and humans.

Pine Essential Oil or Cleaner

Bears have enmity with pine associated scents. So, if you use any kinds of essential oil or cleaner made of pine, then bears will hate to come closer.

Pine-sol is well known for having pine oil in its ingredient list, so it can work as a perfect bear repellent.

If you are heading towards a bear prone hiking area, it’s better to take a sprayer bottle full of pine oil or pine sol.

You can spray it on your backpack to have that pine fragrance around you. And, if you are using pine sol, mix it with a cup of water to make the smell mildly strong.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The smell of apple cider vinegar works as a great repellent for bears. If you soak clothes into this vinegar and hang it on doors, windows, or around your campsite, then bears won’t like to visit you due to the hatred against apple cider vinegar.

You can also use a diluted form of this vinegar with water into a squirt gun and spray directly on the bear if somehow it reaches your place.


Lysol is basically used to clean your floors and to make them germs free. But, there is another great usage of Lysol and that is repelling bears with it.

Bears are not fond of the smell of Lysol and they won’t be roaming around your place if there is a Lysol aroma that hits the smell sense of bears.

However, bears have a tendency to get used to the same smell deterrent, if you keep using a specific one over and over again.

So, it’s better to change your smell repellent from time to time.

Other Form of Deterrents

Though scent-based deterrents are the most effective methods to repel bears, there is still some other form of repellents that you can try as your secondary weapon.

Pepper Spray for Bears

Bear pepper spray can be your magic wand to repel bears when you almost get attacked by one. There are several pepper spray deterrents available in the market from which you can pick your one.

They basically create a foggy cloud between you and the bear right the moment you spray them. The smell of pepper makes them irritated to run away from that place where it’s applied.

You can make your own pepper spray at home just by mixing white, black, and cayenne peppers together.


If you suddenly discover a big black bear right in front of you, then making high pitch noise might help you out in this case.

The sound of air horns, rattles, firecrackers, or even portable sirens can get the job done for you. The sound of a rattlesnake can be a great deterrent if you throw it near the bear.

So, without being scared of the bear’s sudden arrival, just try to blow these whistles whatever is available right that moment in front of you.

It’s better to be equipped with such bear repelling necessary whistles.

Barking Dog

It might sound silly but yes, bears do fear the sound of barking dogs. When they hear the sound of barking dogs, in most cases they run away from that place.

If you don’t have a dog with you, technology is there to fill the gap. You can use a radar activated alarm of barking dogs which is an electronic watchdog.

Electronic Mats

Another effective way to repel bears can be the use of electronic mats. If you place this mat in front of your door or the entrance point, then bears will be having painful shock once they step onto it.

This painful shock doesn’t mean it’s harmful to bears, it’s a non-lethal deterrent.

Throwing Stuff

Well, throwing something to the enemy or any approaching danger has always been a traditional way to save the self.

Throwing stone, beach balls, or any other sturdy object can make the bear run away.

But, if you apply this throwing technique, make sure your aiming ability is accurate enough, otherwise, it won’t be an effective one.

Try to avoid throwing something on the face of the bear, try your best not to hurt this wildlife member.


You never know specifically when a bear will attack you. So, it’s better to know about all forms of deterrents to save yourself from being a victim.

You can also use nozzles with high power through which you can spray high-speed water to the bear, in case it arrives the moment you are watering or using the hose for some reason.


Believe it or not, a human voice is something that makes a bear stay away from your area sometimes.

So, tuning to a radio talk show might work as a repellent if you leave your place for a while. You can use talk shows for this very purpose and set it to a continuous repeat mode for a consistent result.


Throwing a bright shiny flashlight can also work as a repellent as bears might get scared at this. You can use motion sensor lights or marine flare to get the job done.

Making Noises

Not only bears but also every other dangerous animal finds high pitch noises irritating.

So, it’s always a good idea to make noises through an alarm, own voice, pot banging, and so on.

Electric Fence

If you happen to live in bear country, then it’s not a momentary problem to face bear attacks. You need to be aware all the time and take all sorts of necessary steps to be safe and sound.

One of the most important actions you can take in this case is using an electric fence around your place.

To be more specific, putting an electric fence around your garden, orchard, bee-hives, compost, and chicken coop is exactly what you need to do when you live as a neighbor of bears.

Final Words

Many of us think bears are not as dangerous as other carnival animals. But, they are not that innocent too, especially when they are in aggressive mode.

A big giant bear can create severe problems and can even cause fatal injuries if you don’t take proper necessary actions.

This whole article was a compilation of things that bears get attracted to and even the effective smells that repel bears along with other forms of deterrents to ensure you are prepared from every angle to enjoy your outdoor journey.


What smell do bears hate the most? ›

Some people place cups of household ammonia around their site. Apparently the odor irritates a bear sufficiently to keep it out of your site. This technique seems to work well.

What is the best bear deterrent? ›

The 2 most effective bear deterrents are bear spray and noisemakers. Carry both when in bear country. Noisemakers are best used to deter a bear that is at a distance – one that sees you and continues to approach or one that is heading to your camp or settlement.

What is a homemade bear deterrent? ›

These can be white pepper, black pepper, or cayenne pepper. When purchasing, look for the word “piperine,” which is black pepper extract. This will bother a bear's nose and they likely won't be back. You can make a spray from cayenne and water – just be really careful not to get it near your eyes.

Does Pine Sol repel bears? ›

Bears dislike the scent of any pine-scented cleaners that contain pine. Using pure pine oil or a cleaner that contains pine oil, such as Pine-Sol, will aid in repelling bears.

Do bears hate the smell of Pine Sol? ›

Bears also dislike the strong scent of pine-based cleaners, but avoid using anything with a fresh, lemony or fruity smell.

Do bears like the smell of vinegar? ›

Answer: Here's the short answer: It ain't likely. Here's more: Black bears have actually run away when sprayed with vinegar.

What is better than bear spray? ›

Best Bear Spray Alternatives
  • Pepper Spray. If you absolutely cannot get bear spray, then regular pepper spray could be used as an alternative. ...
  • Wasp spray. If you absolutely can't get bear spray, wasp spray may be a good alternative. ...
  • Taser. ...
  • Homemade Bear Spray. ...
  • Bear Repellents.

Why do bears hate bear spray? ›

► BEAR SPRAY IS A DETERRENT made of red pepper oil (oleoresin of capsaicin). It inflames the eyes and upper respiratory system. If used properly, it can effectively deter an aggressive bear.

What Animal Are bears afraid of? ›

“Bears are naturally afraid of canids,” Hunt says. “Why? Because packs of coyotes can steal cubs.” The most common breed of bear dog is the Karelian bear dog, a black-and-white working dog that hails from the region between Finland and Russia called Karelia.

Does coffee grounds keep bears away? ›

Bears, contrary to popular belief, do not mind coffee grounds. What are the best smells to keep bears away? The smell of bears is 100 times stronger than that of humans. As a result, strong smells, such as bleach or ammonia, can deter bears.

Does skunk spray repel bears? ›

While a direct blast from a skunk can sometimes deter large carnivores like bears, it's unlikely that the lingering smell will keep them away. The main threat a skunk offers is the irritation and intensity of a full-on blast from its anal glands.

Does baking soda deter bears? ›

Deter bears: Baking soda may not deter bears as much as help mask the scents that attract them, but keep some in your bear bag or food locker to help lessen the intoxicating scent of free food.

Do dryer sheets keep bears away? ›

Most animals dislike the smell of fabric softener sheets, the kind you use in your dryer. They can also cover the smell of food. Take a pack with you in your camping supplies and put them everywhere: in your cooler, tent, sleeping bag, and backpack.

Does bleach repel bears? ›

Double-bagging trash and placing ammonia, bleach, or camphor in the cans may reduce food odors but is not a guarantee that bears will avoid the trash.

Does human urine deter bears? ›

Stephen Herrero's book Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, considered the definitive work by many authorities, says “human excrement/urine attracts bears and should not be near your campsite.” The National Park Service promotes that belief as well, adding that the salt in urine attracts wild animals (including ...

What food can bears not smell? ›

Choose foods that are compact, compressible, high calorie, and lacking in strong odors, such as rice, tortillas, jerky, pastas, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, and protein bars.

Do bears like the smell of bug spray? ›

As far as I know, bears have never been observed showing any interest in DEET or picaridin. They have been observed showing curiosity about citronella-based products, and conceivably might be interested in other herbal-type repellents.

Does the smell of dogs keep bears away? ›

The short answer is, yes. A dog can smell a bear and alert you well in advance that something's there, which could in turn divert a potential encounter. And a barking dog can discourage a bear from investigating a campsite.

Will mothballs keep bears away? ›

Due to bears' highly developed sense of smell, they find the pungent odor of mothballs unique, which actually piques their interest. Placing mothballs in or around your camp (or vehicle) may attract bears to your location, thus increasing the chance of bears raiding your food cache.

Do bears like coffee smell? ›

Why coffee grounds? Since the bears have a strong sense of smell, such a pungent treat is extremely attractive and stimulating to them. The bears roll around in coffee grounds like a cat in catnip!

How do you hide the smell of a bear? ›

Baking soda can do wonders for controlling your scent. Consider washing your clothes with a no-scent detergent, then dry them on a clothesline (dryers can impart residual odors from prior wash loads into fabrics) before laying them flat in a plastic bag.

What is stronger pepper spray or bear spray? ›

Bear spray is stronger than pepper spray and should only be used against charging bears. The oleoresin capsaicin concentration is typically higher in bear spray. Some pepper sprays come out as a stream, whereas bear spray comes out as a cone-like cloud.

Will ammonia keep bears away? ›

Ammonia has long been recognized as having an odor bears do not like. It has been used successfully (via soaked rags) to deter curious bears from investigating garbage and gardens.

Will wasp spray work on bears? ›

Neither wasp spray nor Tasers are considered proven bear deterrents.

What happens to bear after bear spray? ›

4) Effects Of Bear Spray On Bears

Bear spray effects the bear's mouth, throat, nose, lungs, eyes, and ears almost immediately. The bear's mouth will salivate and its throat will become narrow and irritated causing the bear to cough and choke in response.

Do bears hate toothpaste? ›

Did you know that the mint flavoring in toothpaste can actually attract bears and other critters like raccoon? So never keep your paste, brush and floss in your tent, you can pack it in with your food if it's in a tightly sealed container as you wouldn't want the scent to transfer.

Are bears afraid of pepper spray? ›

Once a person sees how meekly black bears retreat from the mildest pepper spray, it gives a person confidence, despite what they may have read about bears being ferocious. However, it is not to be sprayed on a tent or backpack because it can induce a bear to roll on it.

What is a bears biggest enemy? ›

Would it surprise you to know that an adult bear has almost no predators? Bears are large and can be quite intimidating so they don't have many enemies. Their biggest enemies are humans and each other. It's the cubs and the smaller females that have to watch out.

What is the best dog for protection against bears? ›

The Great Pyrenees of France and Spain, the Akbash of Turkey, and the Konmondor of Spain have been used to reduce bear depredations on livestock and apiaries (Green and Woodruff 1989). Currently, the most active work being done using dogs to deter bears is by Carrie Hunt with Karelian Bear Dogs (KBD).

Can bears smell fear? ›

Untrue. This is a common worry, but most people are afraid near bears and are not attacked. Meeting a black bear close-up can trigger deep, primal fear.

What time of the day are bears most active? ›

Bear Behavior

Bears are most active during early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer. Mating usually takes place in July. Both female and male bears may have more than one mate during the summer.

Does Salt keep bears away? ›

Don't put out salt and mineral blocks as they may attract unwanted wildlife to your yard. Your intent might be to draw deer, elk and moose, but bears and cougars may also be attracted to your property.

Does white vinegar deter bears? ›

Will Vinegar Deter Bears? Bears tend to dislike the strong smell of household cleaners, but you can use vinegar as an alternative. You can pour some cider vinegar on the ground to create a perimeter around your campsite or soak some cloths in cider vinegar and leave them around your campsite.

What scent are bears attracted to? ›

Bears are attracted to anything that smells; it doesn't even need to smell good. Garbage, compost piles, dirty diapers, pizza boxes, empty beverage cans…to a hungry black bear, it all smells like something good to eat. Bears are curious and always exploring.

How harmful is bear spray to bears? ›

Bear spray causes the membranes of the eyes, nose and lungs of a bear to swell and the result is a nearly total, yet temporary, loss of sight and severe restriction of breathing.

Do bear sprays work? ›

The short answer is yes—bear spray does protect you from bears. A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management found that bear spray is effective at stopping aggressive bears more than 90 percent of the time.

What sound do bears hate? ›

Air Horn / Vehicle Siren / Vehicle Loud Speaker

Air horns and vehicle sirens emit approximately 80-120 decibels of sound. They can be effective when used in conjunction with human dominance techniques to move a bear off.

Do bears like peppermint? ›

Most bears love the smell of mint. If you go on a camping trip in many state parks, the wardens will tell you not to keep mint toothpaste or mint gum in your tent because the bears will smell it and go after it. The bear's craving for mint can be used to your advantage.

Does Irish Spring repel bears? ›

We actually tried Irish Spring years ago and though it did repel the deer it also seemed to attract black bears so we stopped using it.

Will citronella candles attract bears? ›

Citronella products have a strong scent that may attract bears. Don't burn citronella candles in camp. Pack out all garbage and trash.

Can bears smell through ziplock? ›

Bears can smell through Ziploc bags. They do so because scent molecules escape through the thin plastic.

Can bears smell pepper spray? ›

“The bear can't smell or see, and it's in pain, so all it wants to do is get out of there,” he says. (The spray wears off after an hour or two, and there is no lasting harm done to the bear, he adds.) But there are a few important caveats for those heading outdoors armed with bear spray.

Do air horns scare off bears? ›

Air horns are an effective bear repellent. They are certainly loud enough to alert bears to your presence. Some campers like to fire off the air horn before they leave their tent in the morning to scare away any bears which might be at the campsite. If you see a bear, you can also use an air horn to scare a bear away.

Does dog poop keep bears away? ›

Yes, dog poop can attract bears to your camp site. Bears smell everything, including the undigested bits of food in your dog's poop.

Can bears smell deodorant? ›

Avoid using scented personal care products, like shampoo, deodorant, lotion, etc. Bears have a great sense of smell, so they'll investigate a peculiar scent. Bears are also attracted to the smell of toothpaste, so make sure that's hung at night along with food and trash. Choose your tent wisely.

Do bears hate the smell of coffee? ›

Why coffee grounds? Since the bears have a strong sense of smell, such a pungent treat is extremely attractive and stimulating to them. The bears roll around in coffee grounds like a cat in catnip!

What animal are bears afraid of? ›

“Bears are naturally afraid of canids,” Hunt says. “Why? Because packs of coyotes can steal cubs.” The most common breed of bear dog is the Karelian bear dog, a black-and-white working dog that hails from the region between Finland and Russia called Karelia.

How far away can a dog smell a bear? ›

If more air passes through their nose they have more chance to pick up smells. How far dogs can smell depends on many things, such as the wind and the type of scent. Under perfect conditions, they have been reported to smell objects or people as far as 20km away.

What times of day are bears most active? ›

Bear Behavior

Bears are most active during early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer. Mating usually takes place in July. Both female and male bears may have more than one mate during the summer.

Do mothballs keep bears away? ›

Due to bears' highly developed sense of smell, they find the pungent odor of mothballs unique, which actually piques their interest. Placing mothballs in or around your camp (or vehicle) may attract bears to your location, thus increasing the chance of bears raiding your food cache.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Domingo Moore

Last Updated: 22/12/2023

Views: 5491

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Domingo Moore

Birthday: 1997-05-20

Address: 6485 Kohler Route, Antonioton, VT 77375-0299

Phone: +3213869077934

Job: Sales Analyst

Hobby: Kayaking, Roller skating, Cabaret, Rugby, Homebrewing, Creative writing, amateur radio

Introduction: My name is Domingo Moore, I am a attractive, gorgeous, funny, jolly, spotless, nice, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.