Every hiker knows to be extra cautious of bears when exploring an area with a local population of these powerful predators. Still, there are so many stories of bears being attached to humans or campsites for various reasons. Understanding what attracts bears is the best way to avoid attracting them to your area. This leads many hikers to wonder if human urine attracts bears?
Bears are attracted to human urine. Most bears will avoid humans, but some bears are drawn to it for the salt content due to curiosity, or they may have already learned that humans carry food. Bears are not usually hunting humans, but the scent of urine may be enough to draw one to your campsite.
Understanding what attracts bears is the best way to avoid attracting them. Every hiker wants to keep bears as far away as possible for their own safety and for the safety of their companions. Let’s explore the most debated bear attractant: human urine. Does it really attract bears? Or does it deter bears, as some hikers say? Let’s find out!
Does Human Urine Attract Bears?
One of the most common, and most critial questions asked by hikers all over the world, but particularly in the continental United States and Canada, where bears occupy almost every good hiking area, is whether bears are attracted to human urine or not?
Some folks say that bears are deterred by human urine and spend time “forming a perimeter” around camp after they set up. Others say that spreading your scent is likely to draw bears closer rather than keep them at bay. Which story is true? Well, the answer should be fairly obvious.
Bears are attracted to human urine, but perhaps not in the way you may imagine. Most bears, especially the smaller varieties of this species, actively try to avoid humans. No bears want to encounter humans unless they know that humans have food or if they are particularly aggressive or starving.
Some larger bear varieties, including grizzly bears and polar bears, are known to seek humans for food, but this is very rare, and most bears would rather avoid humans.
The answer that bears are attracted to human urine seems somewhat irrelevant, right? The truth is that while bears are not attracted to human urine for the sake of hunting a human, they have an incredible sense of smell, and they are naturally curious creatures.
This means that while bears are not attracted to the scent of a human, they are inquisitive and will be drawn nearby any smell that seems interesting or new to the animal.
This truth means that it is never a good idea to urinate anywhere near your camp or along a trail that you may be using. It is always best to move at least 100 yards away from where you are and do your business there.
How We Know That Human Urine Does Not Deter Bears
If we know that bears are attracted to the scent of human urine, for whatever reason, why do some hikers still believe that urine is a bear deterrent?
Some hikers believe that human urine deters bears because bears do not want to come close to humans. Bears are naturally secretive and are unlikely to seek an encounter with a human, so some hikers believe that the scent of urine is enough to cause a bear to walk the other way rather than come close to humans.
While bears are naturally elusive and do not want to encounter humans, if they are hungry enough, if they associate humans with food, and if they are inquisitive enough, some bears are likely to come towards the smell of urine rather than away from it.
We know that bears are attracted to human urine by experience. Hikers, rangers, conservationists, scientists, biologists, explorers, mountain bikers, campers, and many other people have all experienced bear encounters firsthand, and many of them were drawn directly in by human excretions.
There is far more evidence that bears are attracted to humans than there is evidence that they are not. Even though most bears do not want to come near humans, the few that do come close are enough reasons to relieve yourself as far away from your campsite or your trail as possible.
Why Are Bears Attracted To Human Urine?
We have established that bears are attracted to the smell of human urine, and the truth remains that these creatures are attracted to any smells that humans may leave behind, but why exactly are these scents attractive to bears, especially when we know that bears typically try to avoid humans?
Bears are attracted to human urine not because they want to hunt the human, but rather because they associate humans with a source of food if they know that humans carry food, they are attracted to interesting smells that they are unfamiliar with, and they at certain times of the year they may be attracted by the salt in the urine as well.
It is not known exactly why bears are attracted to urine, but these reasons are provided by experts as the most likely reasons why bears are brought nearby human urine.
Bears may be attracted to the salt in urine at certain times of the year when they require more nutrition. Bears may also be drawn close by a smell that they find interesting, or they may already associate humans with a food source because they have raided a campsite before and found many tasty morsels to eat.
In this case, urine will attract a bear because the animal recognizes a familiar smell that has led it to food in the past.
Very few bear species will hunt humans or even try to attack humans for no reason, but there are some that do, and every bear is very dangerous, so it is always best to do everything you can to keep them as far away from where you are as possible.
The Best Practices To Avoid Attracting Bears With Urine
At the end of it, everyone must relieve themselves eventually, and there are some ways to prevent this necessity from attracting bears to your camp or your trail.
To avoid attracting bears to where you are, be sure to move far away from your campsite or trail before relieving yourself. 100 yards should be enough, but this is a minimum distance, so further is always better.
If you can, try never to relieve yourself uphill or upwind from where your area is. The scent may be carried by the wind or gravity to your vicinity, attracting bears closer.
Always be sure to cover your urine with dirt if you can, and the absolute safest place to urinate is in a fast-flowing river that is flowing away from your camp. This will carry the smell far away from your very quickly.
The simple truth is that bears are attracted to human urine, but only out of curiosity when they know that humans carry food or to access the salt in the urine. Most bears will avoid humans if they can, but some are hungry or curious enough to come toward it.
Always relieve yourself as far away from camp as you can, and never underestimate how sensitive a bears’ sense of smell is. Always do everything you can to avoid attracting bears, even if you do not fully understand why. Bears are not to be taken lightly!