Polar Bear's Sense of Smell

Polar bears have a very finely-developed sense of smell. All rules you have ever heard regarding food and bears apply here, too. Don't bring food into your tent if you camp out, don't carry smelly food if you are out hiking alone or with a very small group, certainly don't--not even from the safety of a tundra buggy--feed the bears.

A local had warned me that, even in summer when bears are allegedly scarce, avoid going near such things as whale carcasses washed ashore, because the smell of rotting meat would attract polar bears. (No hardship to obey that bit of advice!)

In The Real Guide to Canada, written and researched by Tim Jepson, Phil Lee and Tania Smith, campers are warned not to engage in sexual intercourse while camping in bear country. Apparently the smell attracts bears and, according to the authors, many a camper-couple has experienced a very unpleasant surprise while in the throes of mutual self-expression. Although the authors had been really thinking of grizzly bears, Kodiak bears and black bears, they probably wouldn't deny that the same caution should apply to polar bears, too. You probably won't be camping in polar bear country, but it doesn't hurt to be aware this little-known safety issue. One pamphlet on polar bear safety also warns that menstruating women should never go out hiking or wandering in areas where polar bears are known to frequent, because the smell of that particular biological process attracts them.


Go to Bear Lore

Go to Bear Season

Return to Churchill, in-town

Return to Introductory page