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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Ask A Bear: Can Bears Get Drunk

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

by: BEAR

 Q: I usually take along a small bottle of Smirnoff and a small bottle of Wild Turkey on my backpack trips into the Desolation Wilderness in the California Sierra. I know that you may be attracted to my booze, but I'm wondering if I need to take extra precautions to keep you from getting a hangover. —mtnguy2x2, via email

A: Waaiiit, are you sssayin' I'ma lousy drrunk? Cuzzz thasss what it sounds like yer sssaayin'...

Seriously, though: You're right, mtnguy2x2—I most definitely can smell your liquor, even in trace amounts. Tales of my bear brethren raiding beer coolers from California to Canada are legion, and for good reason: Most alcoholic drinks get that way from fermented sugars, and I crave sugar for the exact reason runway models hate it (it makes me fat and happy). There are evenreports of bears casually striding out into piles of broken glass in an Anchorage recycling facility to lick the remaining whiskey, beer, and wine droplets left on the unwashed bottles from local bars. 

(My nose for booze is so acute that some experienced bear hunting guides advise their clients not to drink heavily or wear alcohol-based perfumes the night before hunting days, for fear that I'll smell ya coming before you can get a shot off.) 

All of this means you should treat booze (and your empties) like food and properly store it an a bear canister, etc. 

But I don't think that's the question you're asking—I think you just want to know if I can get drunk. The answer is a qualified yes: Like almost all animals, I am susceptible to the sauce and will experience the effects of alcohol, provided I drink a ton of it. Because of my comparatively huge body weight, muscle mass, and fat content, it's going to take a lot of PBRs to get me ogling your wife.

That said, I've been drunk before: In 2004, federal wildlife agents found a black bear passed out on the lawn of a resort in Baker Lake, Wash., after drinking 36 cans of Rainier Beer. When the agents tried to chase off the bear, it simply scampered up a tree to sleep it off for another four hours. The best part? The coolers the black bear raided contained both Rainier and Busch beers, but the bear ignored the Busch after trying only one. Agents finally scared me off, but when I returned the next morning looking for more suds, they could only catch me by placing two open cans of Rainier in the bear trap.

Hey, I may be a bear, but I've got some standards.


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Mar 30, 2012

birds also get blasted on booze - apes as well.

Oct 07, 2011

No, had cleaner is not a probablem, because the alcohol evaporates away. Also, there is no sugar in hand sanitizer.

Steve Lindeman
Oct 06, 2011

If alcohol is a great attractant for bears, what about hikers using alcohol gel on their hands? Wouldn't using a gel to clean our hands stimulate a bear to come in our tents at night?

Oct 06, 2011

I prefer half tequila and half kahlua. I call it Mexican Coffee.

Oct 06, 2011

Years ago a train derailed in Glacier Park spilling corn or grain near the tracks. Park workers got most of it cleaned up, but couldn't get it all. When the snow melted the following spring, bears happily gobbled the fermented corn and got wasted!
Not the same as swiping your liquor, but yes, bears get drunk.

Jul 11, 2011

@Corey: "I was God's own drunk and a fearless man, and that's when I first saw the bear." I love that tune!

Jul 07, 2011

Gary, Relax! Come up with you own question and get it published. You jealous? Get a life.

Jul 07, 2011

Get a grip, and think up a better question. Who cares if the bear gets drunk. They deserve a good time having to put up with us. If I had to deal with dumb questions I'd have a reason to get sloshed as well. Come to think of it, pass me the Jack please!

May 23, 2011

With apologies to Jimmy Buffett:

I said, "Mr. Bear, you know in the eyes of the Lord, we're both beasts when it comes right down to it. So I want you to be my buddy, 'Buddy Bear.'" So I took ole' Buddy Bear by his island sized paw and I led him over to the still. Now he's a' sniffin' around that thing 'cause he's smellin' somethin' good. I gave him one of them jugs of honeydew vine water, he downed it upright, (looked like one of them damn bears in the circus sippin' sasparilly in the moonlight.) I gave him another and another and another 'fore I knew it, he'd downed eight of 'em and commenced to do the "bear dance."

Bob Hansen
May 05, 2011

Cows certainly get eating enough greem apples, which ferment in their stomach(s). Perhaps it could also happen to bears?

Kathy Page
Apr 29, 2011

I worked for Colorado Division of Wildlife in 2007 as a seasonal worker. And the stories I heard from our area manager were great! And yes bears are picky about their beer. He told of a cabin raiding bear that went from one cabin to the next choosing only the good beer and passing over the cheap stuff! So bears do have their standards! Ursus are smart and love their beer!


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