What Smells Will Keep Bears Away?

Bears are not only a hiker’s worst nightmare. You don’t want bears anywhere near your yard. One of the best things you can do to stop bears from coming to your yard is to keep scents that will shoo them away! So, what smells keep bears away?

Bears are attracted to yards with hints of food in them. The best way to keep them out of your yard is to keep food away from your yard.

However, it is also wise to add nasal irritants such as pine-scented oils, ammonia, vinegar, Lysol, and pepper into the mixture.

We’ll give you tips on how to keep bears away from your home. 

What Deters Bears from Coming into Yard?

Bears have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell and can smell food miles away. A hungry bear is highly irritable, so any chance encounter with a bear puts you in harm’s way. They often wander into people’s homes looking for food in compost pits and trash cans. Some bears even break windows if they pick up the scent of food inside a house. 

These methods will reduce any encounters with bears in your yard.

1. Cover Your Food

Bears DO NOT like human interactions. However, they love looking for food, knowing where to find it. They have a powerful scent-picking system, and they will pick up food smells even when the food is covered. 

To keep bears from coming near your yard for food, store any foods in scent-masking bags. Put your food remains in these bags and store them indoors. 

2. Mask Any Food Smells

Compost pits and garbage cans hardly lack leftover food. Bears will go through trash and compost pits to gather whatever food you’ve left. You have to cover compost pits and outdoor garbage cans with strong scents here. 

Ammonia and bleach are some of the most potent cover scents. However, use only one scent or the other at a time. Combining ammonia and bleach is a recipe for disaster.

It might be explosive. Usually, ammonia is more effective since bears can pick the horrendous scent from far. 

3. Fence the Yard

Here’s a fun fact. Bears are terrific climbers. Black bears, in particular, are also good diggers and can dig tunnels under fences.

The point is, a regular fence won’t keep a hungry bear away, and you have to reinforce it with electric wire. See, bears don’t like surprises, so an electric shock fence is a painful feeling. 

Your fencing should be electric if you live in an area with too many bears (think Alaska and the Midwest). Barbed wire fencing can ruin your home’s aesthetic. You can fence off areas that bears are likely to stalk, such as around kennels and garbage areas. 

4. Reinforce Windows

Bears break windows. They have a thick coating in their paws that makes it easy for them to break into a home if they spot food inside.

However, you can bar them. It might interfere with a home’s overall aesthetic, but having reinforced windows keep away bears. 

Wrought iron decorations lend a rustic look to your windows. Additionally, they make strong bear deterrents in homes. No bear’s sneaking into your kitchen through the back yard when you’re not home. 

5. Unwelcome Mats

Did you know bears are smart enough to open front doors? Unwelcome mats are anti-animal mats you place on door entrances. They have spikes that would hurt the animal if the animal got that close to your home. 

You can DIY an unwelcome mat using plywood and 2-inch nails. Space the nails 2 inches apart. You can use longer nails, especially in areas with more giant bears like grizzlies. 

6. Visual Scares (Like Motion-triggered Lights)

Bright lights scare bears. It’s worse when these lights are sudden and aimed at their eyes. Install motion-triggered lights around the house.

You can even have timed lights that come on at certain times. Bears associate lights with human presence. They will avoid the area if they think there is a chance of encountering humans. 

7. Motion-activated Scarecrows

One of the most common tips park rangers tell you is to increase your presence when you face bears. Bears are intimidated by more significant subjects. In an outdoor setting, you’d raise your arms and stay still. 

A motion-activated scarecrow operates using the same principle. You can make it a moving subject, too. You can put several motion-activated scarecrows to intimidate bears from getting on your property. The best thing about such a setup is that you can wire the motion sensors also to include sound. 

Scarecrows are effective, mainly when no one’s in the house to man the yard.

8. Barking Dogs

Bears and dogs don’t get along. A bear will run off if it hears dogs barking. However, ensure the dogs are in an enclosure.

Dogs, like bears, have an incredible sense of smell. They can pick up a bear scent and alert you if a bear is close.

A hungry bear is aggressive, and it could seriously injure a dog if the dog came close. Dogs don’t intimidate grizzly bears, whether in live confrontation or sound. 

Still, one dog breed is trained to keep all bears away from the property. The Karelian Bear Dog is a dog breed native to Finland. It’s a gentle dog breed to humans, making an excellent herder dog.

It is one of the dog breeds that can intimidate bears. It makes aggressive sounds that scare bears and back down when the bear backs away. Consult with a verified dog breeder if the Karelian Bear dog is suitable for your area. 

9. Loud Sounds 

The sound of a live camp is enough to keep a bear away from your area since they avoid human confrontation. But it’s not practical to make noise in your yard. So,motion-activated sounds such as sirens work well to scare off bears. 

You can also get whistles that’ll scare them off. If you’re home when a bear comes to your yard, grab pots and pans and bang them together.

The loud noise will startle the bear, and it will runoff. Pots and pans are a handy tricked that even forest rangers suggest on camping trips.  

Here’s a neat trick. Put a radio out during the bear season. Play a pre-recorded broadcast to mimic the sound of humans talking. Put it somewhere near the yard and turn up the sound. Bears will likely keep off the property. 

10. DIY Kits like Garbage Bag & Flags

Bears are hyper-reactive to bright, colorful things. If you were at a park and a bear confronted you, opening and closing a bright-colored umbrella could distract the bear and buy you some time.

Garbage bags are a simple DIY alternative that might momentarily stop a bear in its tracks. It would work great in places with strong winds since the bags fill up with air and flail in the wind. 

Paint the bags and hoist them up on long poles. Plant these poles in your yard in corners and vulnerable spots. Alternatively, you can use flags. Flags might even look better for your yard’s overall aesthetic. 

11. Sprinkler Systems

Unlike cats, bears are not scared of water. Some bears are excellent swimmers. However, when they least expect it, immediate blasts of water are where they draw the line. Install a motion-activated water sprinkler system in your yard. 

However, sprinkler systems are a temporary deterrent. Bears are smart. They will eventually learn the sprinklers have no follow-up that keeps them out of the yard. As such, they will ignore the water and come back to your yard. 

You can incorporate the water blasts with solid scents that bears hate. 

What Smells Will Keep Bears Away?

Smells are an effective way to keep animal intruders out of your yard. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many smells that will keep bears away. However, these five smells will keep bears away. 

  • Pine scent
  • Ammonia
  • Vinegar
  • Lysol
  • Pepper

1. Pine Scents

Pine is an everyday scent in liquid cleaners. You can get pine oil from different varieties of pine trees. Ironically, bears despise pine oil and anything pine-scented. It has a sharp scent that irritates the bear’s sense of smell. 

Pine exists in various forms. 

You can get pine oil in pure form. Alternatively, obtain some Pine-Sol, the cleaner. Don’t go for scented pine sol cleaner. Nothing lemon-scented. The unscented pine sol does a great job keeping bears out.

2. Ammonia

If you can’t stand ammonia because of its obnoxious smell, think about how bad it smells to bears. Ammonia bombs are standard in outdoor trash bins. Although it is a powerful bear deterrent, you should be careful when applying it. 

Hang ammonia-soaked rags where your kids or pets can’t reach. You can put rugs in fence spots where a bear would typically dig through. 

Coat an ammonia-filled balloon in peanut butter or honey and place it in a trash can. The sudden burst of ammonia will irritate the bear.

However, ammonia-filled balloons could hurt the bear’s eyes. Only use this method in moderation if you have a notorious bear problem. 

3. Vinegar

Vinegar is another scent that bears don’t like. While white vinegar might have a slightly acidic smell, apple cider vinegar also works to keep bears away from your property.

Like ammonia, dip a rag in vinegar and hang it where bears will likely access your yard. The fumes from the vinegar are amplified more to a bear because of their sharp sense of smell. 

4. Lysol

You may know Lysol as a disinfectant or cleaning product. However, you can also use it as a bear deterrent. Lysol has a robust antiseptic smell that irritates bears. Use it on surfaces in your yard that would generally lock in scents. 

Try it on wooden birdhouses. The wood will likely soak and lock in the scent. The scent will deter bears from digging around the birdhouse. 

Warning: Lysol is toxic to the environment, and you should use it with caution.

5. Bleach

Bleach by itself isn’t much of a deterrent. However, it has a strong smell that bears hate. Most people use bleach as a mild alternative to ammonia to cover odors in the trash or compost bins.

Bleach works in yards, too. Clean your yard in bleach occasionally, especially when bears are in bulking season and prowling for food. 

6. Pepper

Pepper has many forms. Whether it’s chili flakes, pepper spray, or whole peppers, the sharp smell will irritate bears. The best part is how you can use pepper in its many forms in your yard to keep bears away. 

Homemade pepper deterrents are easy to make. Soak many peppers in a cider solution and hang a soaked rug somewhere in your yard. Ensure it’s in a place that no pet or child will reach. Store-bought deterrents have piperine, a black pepper extract. 

Is Bear Spray a Deterrent?

Bear spray is a deterrent. However, bear spray is a deterrent in one-on-one interactions. 

It’s an aerosol containing capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, the active ingredients in chili peppers.

Bear spray is an extreme measure, and it is only helpful in the yard if a bear confronts you in your home or property.

You can use it with balloons in bear-rich areas to make some bear spray bombs that will overwhelm the bear out of your premises. However, we don’t recommend you use bear spray bombs to deter bears from your property. 

Contact the local authorities responsible for wild animals if bears become a nuisance in your yard. 

Scents to Avoid that Bears Like

Lastly, if you want a 100% bear proof yard, here are certain scents you might want to avoid to keep bears from coming into your property:

1. Food Flavors

If a bear raids your yard, trash, or home, you can bet it’s only looking for food. Anything that smells like food is a no-no. Keep your outdoor barbeque grills clean and washed after you’re finished with them. 

Anything fruit-scented also will attract bears. Bears will stroll into your yard for food if they are even the slightest bit curious about the likelihood of food. 

2. Lemon

Lemon oil keeps many pests away. Not bears, though. The smell of lemon attracts bears to your yard. If you have a lemon tree in your yard, you might want to double up on those deterrents because a bear will dare to get to the fruit tree. 

3. Coffee

Coffee grounds have a strong smell that would keep away smaller critters. Bears, on the other hand, love it. They can chew coffee beans and get stimulated by them.

They might have caught the behavior by associating it with food from campers in the wild. If you ever think of having a yard campout, discard all the coffee grounds in a sealed bag. 


Your yard is a safe space for you and your family. However, bears might come to your yard for nothing other than food. Avoid face-to-face confrontations and use deterrents to decrease the possibility of live encounters.

Go for deterrents that affect the bears’ key senses. Stay safe and keep your yard bear-free. 


Photo of author

Hubert Miles

Hello! My name is Hubert Miles. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. One of my favorite parts of my job is inspecting decks and patios. I also enjoy spending time in our backyard with friends and family. My team and I started this site to share this journey. We hope you enjoy the content.

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