The Super Sniffers
You may have heard the surprising statistic that a bear’s sense of smell is seven times greater than that of a bloodhound (which can already pick out smells 1,000 times better than a human being). Bears are leagues ahead of us when it comes to sniffing out mates, danger, and most importantly, food. While you might be able to detect fresh baked chocolate chip cookies when you walk into your home, bears can catch the scent of their prey from a few miles away—or around 20 miles away according to more generous estimates.
Black and grizzly bears, like the ones you’ll find here at Bear World and in Yellowstone National Park, have a powerful sense of smell thanks to their large noses. Their nasal mucosa (the area inside the nose) is 100 times bigger than ours. As impressive as these massive snouts might be, they mean bad news for people who live in or visit bear country. Make sure you store all of your food and gear correctly before you become an example of what not to do.
What Should You Store?
To you, figuring out what is edible between a bottle of shampoo and a jar of peanut butter is easy. But bears smell anything and everything, regardless of its taste or nutritional value. So while you might store all of your food safely in a locker, leaving scented soap, drinks, toiletries, or other products in your tent is still risky. Bears, with their powerful noses, are attracted to strong smells. And they don’t know that your vanilla bean lotion doesn’t taste like vanilla bean.
If you want to be safe, store all of your gear, edible or not, inside a bear-proof locker. This should include ice chests, canned goods, and cooking utensils too. Sure, they may not smell like much to you, but a bear will catch those scents from miles away.
How Should You Store?
Allowing a bear to access human food or gear is not only dangerous to you—it’s dangerous to the bear. After one successful encounter with human food, bears may become more aggressive toward people in the future to get more easy meals Eventually, they will need to be put down. To prevent an incident from happening in the first place, keep the following instructions in mind for your next visit to bear country:
• Sleep at least 100 yards away from where you cook, eat, and store your food.
• Do not sleep in clothes or gear that you wore while cooking or eating.
• Only store food or gear in the car during the day—never at night.
• Always keep an eye on your packs.
• Hang bags or bear-proof boxes at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet horizontally from the closest post or tree.
• Keep all human waste at least 200 yards from the campsite.
• Treat garbage just like any other food or gear.
Bears are amazing creatures with a truly impressive sense of smell. If you don’t respect their power and abilities, you can find yourself in a tough situation. Keep your food and gear stored, and enjoy a bear’s sense of smell from a safe distance. And for all up-close encounters, visit Yellowstone’s Bear World.