Report: Menstruating Women Not at Greater Risk from Bears
A report released this year by Yellowstone National Park lays to rest the 40 year old myth that menstruating women are at greater risk of bear attack.
Sparked by a deadly grizzly bear attack which killed two women in Glacier National Park in 1967, the myth holds that bears are drawn menstruating women by to the smell of blood. Recent research however, debunks this myth.
Research on black bears and grizzly bears conducted in the last three decades fails to support the theory that menstrual blood attracts bears and thus puts menstruating women in danger.
The research which often includes presenting bears with used tampons, has shown that bears largely ignore the presence of used tampons and are similarly disinterested when in the vicinity of menstruating women.
According to the paper:
Rogers et al. (1991) recorded the responses of 26 free-ranging black bears (Ursus americanus) to used tampons from 26 women and the responses of 20 free ranging black bears to four menstruating women at different days of their flow. Menstrual odors were essentially ignored by black bears of all sex and age classes. In an extensive review of black bear attacks across North America, no instances of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women was found (Cramond 1981, Herrero 1985, Rogers et al. 1991).
An exception to these findings is found when studying polar bears which were found by one study to be drawn to menstrual blood.
In a study designed to test the hypothesis that bears are attracted to the odors of menstruation, Cushing (1983) reported that when presented with a series of different odors (including seal scents, other food scents, non-menstrual human blood, and used tampons), four captive polar bears (Ursus maritimus) elicited a strong behavioral response only to seal scents and menstrual odors (used tampons). Cushing (1983) also reported that free-ranging polar bears detected and consumed food scent samples and used tampons, but ignored non-menstrual human blood and unused tampons. This suggests that polar bears are attracted to odors associated with menstrual blood.
Bear Attacks In Canada
Here in Canada fatal bear attacks are rare. The last recorded fatal black bear attacked occured near Lillooet, British Columbia, when a 72-year-old woman was killed. Park rangers killed 5 suspected bears. DNA evidence found that one of the bears killed the victim.