My friends and I are always careful to be bear-safe when we camp in bear country. We store our food in bear barrels, and we don’t leave our dirty dishes and open food containers sitting around. But we’ve been known to linger around the fire for a beer or three. Should we be worried about attracting hungry animals with our brews?
“Pretty well anything that has an odor and digestible calories, bears will be attracted to,” says Stephen Herrero, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Calgary and the author of Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. “Beer - once it’s open - has its own odor, and that odor could certainly attract bears.”
According to Herrero, bears are known to be attracted to fermenting fallen apples, and there have been reports of the animals getting drunk on the fruit. Ursines that are used to being around people and our messy habits also been observed biting into closed aluminum cans on sight, having learned that they often contain edibles.
That said, Herrero doesn’t think backcountry drinkers need to be too concerned. “I’ve been looking at bear attacks for 40 years plus, and I can’t think of any that were triggered by beer.” He recommends that campers keep in mind that beer is no different than food, and all the usual bear-safety advice applies: Choose a clean, open campsite that’s away from trails and streams. Do your cooking - and your drinking - at least 100 feet away from your tents, and preferably downwind. Use a bear barrel or build a food cache, and keep all your smelly items – not just food, but toiletries, too - stashed away when not in use. Keep a clean camp, and pack out all your trash.
“I wouldn’t stop drinking beer. Just don’t be a slob,” he suggests. “I certainly wouldn’t want to spill half a can outside the tent, or even worse, inside the tent.”
So by all means, indulge. But maybe save the beer pong for when you’re back in town.