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Ask A Bear: Can Bears Get Drunk

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

—BEAR

Got a question for the bear? Send it to askabear@backpacker.com.

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