Skip to Content

The 7 Smells That Bears Hate

As apex predators, brown bears have few natural predators themselves. Image via Pexels

Bears have a keen sense of smell which they rely on for finding food, identifying danger, and navigating their environment. By knowing the smells that a bear hates, we can use them to deter them from campsites, backyards, or any areas where human-bear conflicts might occur.

Here’s a roundup of the 7 smells that bears hate.

1. Ammonia

Grizzly bear. Image by Simon Hurry via Pexels.

Ammonia is a strong, pungent odour. It’s not just overwhelming for humans but also bears. Soaking rags in ammonia and placing them around the area you wish to keep bear-free can be a deterrent. However, use this method cautiously and responsibly to avoid environmental harm.

2. Citrus Scents

Image by Danika Perkinson via Unsplash

The fresh, zesty smell of citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are not favoured by bears. Citrus peels or even citrus-scented cleaners can help keep bears at a distance.

3. Pine-Sol and Similar Cleaners

Mother bear protects her three little puppies. Image via Depositphotos

The strong, disinfectant smell of Pine-Sol and similar cleaning agents is often used by campers and homeowners in bear-prone areas. Wiping down surfaces or leaving soaked rags in strategic places can serve as an effective bear repellent.

4. Capsaicin and Chili Pepper

Spectacled Bear. Anil Öztas, FALCC-BY-NC-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Capsaicin is the active component in chilli peppers and is what gives them their heat. This same component, when concentrated, can be used as a bear deterrent. Spraying solutions containing capsaicin around your campsite or backyard makes it less inviting to bears. Bear spray, a common safety tool for hikers and campers, contains capsaicin.

5. Vinegar

Black Bear
Black Bear. Image via Pexels.

Vinegar, with its sharp and acidic scent, is another smell that bears hate. Using vinegar to clean or spray diluted vinegar can help keep bears at bay. Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are both good options.

6. Mothballs

A portrait of a wild grizzly bear.
A portrait of a wild grizzly bear. By Jean Beaufort –, CC0,

The naphthalene found in mothballs produces a smell that is not only repulsive to moths but also to bears. Placing mothballs around your property can deter bears. But use it with caution as they are toxic to pets and children.

7. Essential Oils

Bear in the yellow forest. Image by OndrejProsicky via Depositphotos

Certain essential oils, particularly those with strong scents such as eucalyptus, peppermint, and cinnamon, can be unappealing to bears. Mixing these oils with water and spraying them around can help create a natural barrier against curious bears.

Using smells to deter bears should not replace basic safety practices like securing food and trash. Always prioritize respecting bear habitats and follow local wildlife guidelines to ensure safety for both humans and bears.

Up next:

Gorilla vs. Grizzly Bear – Who Would Win In A Faceoff?

Latest posts by Tara Panton BSc (Honors) Marine Biology (see all)
Tiger Cubs Debut With Proud Mom Top 10 States With The Most Bald Eagles Top 10 States With The Most Bison Big Cats Loving Chin Scratches and Nose Boops Rescued Big Cats Eating Giant Popsicles