Will Essential Oils Deter Bears? 3 Things You Should Know

A large black bear in a field

Bringing essential oils along on a hiking trip or even using them outside of your house can be a relieving scent. However, you may think that certain essential oils can help you repel animals, such as bears, while hiking or out in your back yard.

Bears dislike the scent of any pine-scented items, such as pine essential oil. Only use pine oil in bear country as other sweet-scented essential oils such as lemon oil, lavender oil, and orange oil, may attract a bear instead of deterring it.

Bears have an extremely keen sense of smell, so any essential oil that you use may tell the bear that you’re simply a gigantic version of whatever scent is present. In order to safely use your essential oils out in bear country, there are a few crucial things you should know.

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Bears Dislike the Scent of Anything Pine Related – Including Pine Oil

While bears love anything sweet (yes, even honey) they have often been found to steer clear of anything pine-scented.

Bears dislike the scent of any pine-scented cleaners that contain pine. Using pure pine oil or a cleaner that contains pine oil, such as Pine-Sol, will aid in repelling bears.

pine sol
Pine-Sol Contains Pure Pine Oil, Which is Excellent for Repelling Bears

A good practice here would be to fill a small sprayer bottle with Pine-Sol or pine oil and spray a cloth attached to your backpack with it before going hiking.

*PLEASE NOTE THAT USING PINE OIL ALONE WILL NOT GUARANTEE THE DETERRING OF BEARS. Please consult a professional before acting on this advice!

Go ahead and find an old rag to tie around one of the loops on your backpack. Coat the rag or cloth with pine oil or Pine-Sol and keep it around your pack. This will keep your backpack smelling fresh and also keep bears away in the process.

It would also be a fantastic idea to then bring your new pine-filled spray bottle with you while hiking in case you need to refresh your scent. Be careful not to get any residual pine oil in your eyes as it’s no fun dealing with that.

You should always consult your local expert when in bear areas to determine your best course of action when in bear country

Whether you use Pine-Sol or pure pine oil to fill your spray bottle, make sure to dilute it with some water to allow the pine product to be more soluble and spray bottle.

If using Pine-Sol as a bear repellant, mix 1 cup of Pine-Sol with to 1 cup of water inside of a spray bottle to keep the scent mildly strong

If using pure pine oil as a bear repellant, mix 6-8 drops of pine oil for every cup of water inside of a spray bottle.

peppermint essential oil

If you’re at home and you want to keep bears away from your backyard, then filling a spray bottle with pure pine oil or Pine-Sol mixture is an even better idea.

Fill your spray bottle with whichever pine oil product you’d like, and then spray any natural landmarks such as rocks or logs with the pine oil.

Bears have the ability to smell from up to 20 miles away, giving the pine-oil spray a strong chance to reach a bear nearby and keep it away.

Another fantastic stop to spray your pine-oil mixture is right inside of your outside garbage cans. Since bears have such a keen sense of smell, the stench that comes off of a garbage can is extremely likely to be noticeable by a bear.

If your garbage cans smell, go outside and spray the entire inside of the cans thoroughly to deter bears.

Ideally, we would remove any garbage from inside the trash cans as well, but you’ll more than likely have to wait until pick up day for that!

While bears can pick up the scent that pine oil gives off, they can also sense other smells from a great distance away as well.

The only difference is that the while bears dislike pine oil, they will be attracted most other scents that they smell from a great distance away as well.

Certain Scents Can Make a Bear Think You’re a Walking Meal

Whatever essential oil you’re using in bear country (besides pine oil) seriously rethink using it.

Bears have an incredibly keen sense of smell that is extremely fascinating. Bears are thought of by many to have the keenest sense of smell on the planet.

Not only do bears have a significantly better sense of smell than humans, but they have a stronger sense of smell than any breed of dog – including bloodhounds and german shepherds.

This isn’t to say a bear would be a better tracking animal than a bloodhound, but that is a different topic for a different time.

In actuality, a bear’s sense of smell is about 100 times more sensitive than a human’s.

This incredible sense of smell, coupled with a bear’s ability to smell an object from up to 20 miles away, makes it easy for bears to detect from a great distance away.

So, why would you need to rethink using certain essential oils out in bear country?

Since bears have an incredibly strong sense of smell, they will more than likely mistake you for whatever scent or essential oil you are carrying.

Even worse – they’ll imagine you as a much larger version of whatever scent you are giving off and come search for you as a result.

However, we can easily counteract a bear’s sense of smell by avoiding a few key sweet-smelling scents in the first place.

Essential Oils That May Attract a Bear:

Essential OilCould it Attract a Bear?
Lemon OilYes
Orange OilYes
Lavender OilYes
Grapefruit OilYes
Pine OilNo – Bears dislike anything pine-

While this is a preliminary list, make sure to be cautious and make your own judgment as to which essential oils smell sweet or not.

Likely, if the essential oil smells good to you, then it probably smells good to the bear as well.

Can Bears Smell Through Covered Containers?

You bet they can. Remember, bears have the best sense of smell out of any creature on the planet. I think we’d be a little disappointed if they weren’t able to smell through containers at this point.

However, there is a slight catch to this.

Bears can smell through objects inside of sealed containers and bags; however, the distance they can detect them from is significantly reduced when the object is properly covered.

This means that if you do bring any essential oils with you while hiking in bear country, make sure that the essential oils are adequately sealed in both their own bottles and the container.

Additionally, the same rule applies to food. Plastic zip bags and containers are notorious for preventing spills, but they really don’t hide scent too well at all.

If you don’t believe it, go ahead and test it yourself.

Put a clove of garlic inside a plastic zip bag and crush the garlic. If you try smelling through the bag afterward, you’ll notice a mild garlic smell coming from the plastic.

Remember that bears can smell objects from up to 20 miles away. If you can smell through a plastic bag, then so can they.

The bear will more than likely need to be much closer than 20 miles to smell anything inside of a plastic container, but they most definitely can.

However, if you’re in need of a scent proof plastic bag, there is a solution for that.

If you’re interested in looking at a reusable scent proof bag for food and traveling, check out this awesome smell proof bag from TÜS.

Remember, be extremely safe in bear country and don’t always rely on one item to save the day. If you’re carrying pine oil or Pine-Sol with you while in bear territory, then it’s a great idea to carry bear spray with you as an added safeguard.

I talk a little bit about the benefits of carrying bear spray as a backup method in another article I wrote about bears, which you can view here.

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