Ask A Bear: Soap-eating Bears?

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

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Last week, I answered a question about whether my kind enjoys noshing on dryer sheets. We concluded that while Snuggle could serve as an attractant, there isn’t a ton of scientific evidence that I’m particularly attracted to milder chemical smells like dryer sheets.

Of course, trail experience from rangers and backpackers alike often says otherwise, and now reader Mike Pilvinsky brings us a story of soap-eating bears that reminds us of the old adage: If it’s got a scent, leave it out of the tent. Check it out:

We live close to the national forest and only about three miles from Springer Mountain in GA. Last week our bird feeders were destroyed, and the next day we saw three [bear] cubs and a mom just below our deck. I have three 4-year old apple trees, and one of the many things I do to try to keep the deer from destroying them is to hang Irish Spring bars from the branches. Well, shortly after the four black bears left, I noticed one of the branches of my apple tree was drooping. Upon investigation I discovered that the bears had eaten two man-sized bars of Irish Spring. So there goes the theory that they won’t eat anything that is not a food item even if it smells good.
Mike Pilvinsky, via email

That’s a compelling story, Mike. We probably shouldn’t be surprised the bears went for the soap. I’m naturally curious and opportunistic, and one look at the ingredients of Irish spring reveals two ingredients that I could confuse for food items: sodium tallowate (made from beef tallow) and coconut and palm kernel acid. This all backs up the idea that strong scents of any kind should be avoided in bear country.

But I’ve got an alternate theory. I think it’s possible the mama bear had two foul-mouthed cubs on her hands, and she used your conveniently-placed Irish Spring bars to teach them a lesson. I know it’s what my mama bear would’ve done.


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