What if the bears CAN smell the menstruation?

Dealing with your flow in the backcountry is a pain, no way about it. There are additional steps and concerns related to hygiene, sanitation, and discretion that layer on top of all of the other steps related to safety, having fun, yadda yadda.

And then there’s that other concern, so kindly planted in my head by the character Brick in Anchorman, back in 2004.

I vaguely remember a conversation about four years back with friends here in Alaska. A guy was recounting a trip he had taken with an old girlfriend, and there had been a bear stalking them, and she had been in her cycle, so they assumed that was why. At least, that’s how I remembered the story when I was hiking alone recently and had reason to wonder (as you might have guessed).

With no access to park rangers or the internet I just stayed the course, singing loudly and keeping my bearspray at the ready. I saw no bears nor sign of bears, so generally the hike out was dull – a completely wonderful experience of solitude.

But, I did turn to the internet ASAP so I could put this to query to rest once and for all. Here’s what I’ve found out: according to Kerry A. Gunther (researcher), grizzly and black bears are not attracted to odors related to female menstruation. I repeat, even if the bears CAN smell it, they don’t want it. Hallelujah.

Now that we’re all relieved, check out the interesting points in the articles here and here (they’re identical, different hosts) about this myth’s contributions to the stereotype that a woman’s place isn’t outdoors, because it isn’t safe for her. And then check out ANIMOSA, the company that launched the “Go-With-the-Flow Pack” for adventurous women.

And then, as a reminder that in some places of the world bears and moose aren’t the big predators, check out this article about a woman who was stalked by a kangaroo for three days. Who knew?

One thought on “What if the bears CAN smell the menstruation?

  1. I can agree with your findings completely because as a guide living in Northern Alaska for 20 years I have guided many women during that time who were concerned like you were. In all the years of tracking bears I have found bears do have a phenomenal sense of smell but though it is to make them better hunters the smells they do not recognize only alert them to the possibility of danger.


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