BBQ Science & Safety

Does Smoking Meat Attract Bears?

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Camping out in the woods means you need to cook your food out in the open. Or maybe you have a smoker out and you live near or in the mountains. Could this pose a problem for bears?

Most bears do not associate the smell of cooking meat with food. Bears are usually afraid of the heat that a smoker or grill gives off. Some bears may have tasted cooked meat before and be intrigued, but most are not interested.

So, when it comes to cooking meat in the outdoors, is there anything you need to look out for? What can you do to prepare?

Do Certain Meats Attract Bears to a Smoker

Bears are most often attracted to the smell of meat, not normally anything that is being cooked. Bears search for food based off of smell and familiarity. Cooked meats don’t have the same smell as a bear’s usual prospects, so they’re not normally attracted or intrigued by someone’s grills and/or smokers. However, if you have anything outside that is being prepped to be put in the smoker, such as chicken, beef, or anything raw, then a bear will be attracted to those smells.

Occasionally, bears aren’t picky, especially if they’re used to trying to get people’s leftover food. Bears are attracted to a myriad of scents, and will search through anything to get it. This includes people’s garbage, pet food that is left out, really anything that is left unopened. Some bears will eat (or at least try), just about anything. Black bears are more specific when it comes to their diet, but will still search through your garbage every once in a while for something interesting. It’s important to take precautions to keep things covered, whether it be food or your garbage, to prevent a bear from getting too close and comfortable near homes and people.

What Attracts Bears to Your Grill/Smoker

Whatever is leftover and sitting and baking into your grill or smoker is what attracts bears. Any grease, oils, or even herbs will attract bears to your smoker. If there is leftover food on the grill or smoker, even just scraps, they will definitely attract bears, and it’s extremely difficult to get them to go away afterward. It’s important to clean your grill and/or smoker after every use. When cleaning it out, don’t dump any leftover grease or oil into the yard, or even try to bury it, as the smell will still attract bears. Dirt doesn’t necessarily bury all of the smells, unfortunately.

Sometimes, bears are attracted to the smells that are emitted by cigarettes or cigars, intrigued by scents that seem unfamiliar and could be mistaken for food. This can go for smokers, as burning certain woods, like hickory or oak, seems to attract bears. These scents can be familiar and alluring, so bears may be curious enough to come close. However, oftentimes, bears are afraid of the smoke that is emitted. Traegers have a valve that can release the smoke, which helps to enhance the smoky flavor of your meats. This smoke can be extremely effective in scaring bears away because smoke means fire, and most animals have a fear of fire.

Make Sure to Clean Your Smoker and/or Grill

Bears are curious by nature, and will eat whatever smells good to them. Take precautions by cleaning your grill after every single use if bears are a known problem in your area. Here are a few steps to take in order to keep your smoker clean.

  • burn off any particles of food that are leftover
  • collect oils and grease leftover, and dispose of them properly
  • cover your grill when it isn’t in use, but it may be best to keep it stored indoors, such as a garage
  • DO NOT dump whatever is left into the yard
  • consider locking the garbage

If a bear knows that there is food available at a certain home, then they will continue to come back until the food source isn’t there anymore. Cleaning and storing are the best ways of avoiding bears. It’s the best way to protect your home and those around you.

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Can You Smoke Your Meats While Camping?

There’s nothing wrong with having a late night cookout underneath the stars. However, you may attract some unwanted company if you’re not careful. So, taking precautions when it comes to cooking while camping is important in protecting yourself, and especially your food. This means making sure that your meat is properly wrapped and stored in a cooler, and possibly even left in your car until it’s time to be cooked. While you’re cooking, make sure that you keep it covered and monitored so that it cooks as long as necessary, as well as making sure not bears are getting too close. Whatever is left over, wrap it up and put it back in the cooler. Adding layers helps to hide the smell as best as possible. Following this will protect you, as well as those with you, from accidentally being hurt by a curious bear.

Are Bears Not Afraid of Humans

Something important to remember is that bear attacks are very, very rare. If you’ve lived near the woods or close to the mountains for a long time, you’ll know this. You’ll also know that bears do tend to wander through town every once in a while, but they’re more curious than they are harmful. If a bear wanders through your yard, just let it pass through. It’s important to cover anything that could have food in it, and if a bear finds food, then it will come back until the food source is gone. Don’t try to feed the bears, as this can also cause them to associate food with people. Having a healthy fear of bears is a good thing, as it is for them.

When it comes to food preparation, keep the area clean, and dispose or store scraps and leftovers properly. If you do this, you shouldn’t have to worry about bears interrupting your picnic.

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