Ammonia doesn’t deter bears directly, but it may mask the scent of food or other odors that bears are attracted to. This is not a guaranteed method and humans shouldn’t rely on ammonia or other repellents to keep bears away.
In fact, there are no registered home-based repellents for use on bears.
Ammonia is a colorless gas that has a unique odor. It’s a building block chemical and the main element in various products that humans use daily. Bears are continuously in the search for food and interested in getting the most calories for the least effort.
So, it’s not uncommon for them to come back to a place where they’ve been rewarded with an easy meal, like a garbage can or an open barbecue with leftover meat. By ensuring these objects are bear-proofed, humans can keep their properties and families safe and save the bear’s life too.
Certain deterrents, including ammonia, may be useful in places where bears have come several times by decreasing the attractiveness, which will result in the bear going away, according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
Important: This is general information for education and entertainment purposes only. Consult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.
Can Ammonia Keep Bears Away?
Ammonia isn’t a registered bear repellent, but anecdotal evidence claims that it’s an odor that bears dislike. People who live near bear territory often spray it into garbage cans to mask the scent of the odor that attracts bears.
Disinfecting trash cans with undiluted ammonia is often done on the inside sides and bottom because it’s said to remove any unpleasant odors and deter raccoons and rodents, but also bears.
According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the sense of smell of bears is a hundred times more sensitive than that of humans. Humans find odors of ammonia and bleach unpleasant, so they’re a hundred times more unpleasant for bears.
Therefore, ammonia-based cleaners can be used to disinfect places that tend to attract bears. There are individual cases of people managing to prevent bear encroachment by spraying the insides of their trashcans with ammonia and placing lids with tiny holes that release the odor.
Rags soaked in ammonia are also often placed in yards to prevent bears from exploring properties and reduce the risk of them coming back. Bleach and ammonia must never be mixed because they produce fumes that are deadly to both humans and bears!
There are commercially available ammonia dispensers that are designed to shoot ammonia straight at bears, however, these are cruel and dangerous. They can destroy a bear’s nasal passages and prevent it from sniffing which is one of its most important senses for survival. It might also cause a bear that’s mildly interested to become more aggressive.
What Are the Best Bear Deterrents?
As noted by the Government of Alberta, the two most helpful bear deterrents are noisemakers and bear spray and they’re best to have when one is spending time in an area where bears live.
Noisemakers are the most effective when one wants to deter a bear at a distance. But, noisemakers may not work immediately, especially if the bear has been exposed to it before.
And, a noisemaker won’t avert the bear from coming back to the same place. On the other hand, a bear spray is recommended when trying to deter a bear that is at a closer range.
According to one study, 98 percent of people who used this spray were not injured by a bear whereas the other 2 percent got only mild injuries that didn’t require any hospitalization.
Bear spray’s active ingredient is known as oleoresin capsicum that is irritating to the nose, eyes, and lungs. It will trigger a short-term eye irritation and poor breathing, but it’s not deadly to the bear! However, It’s more of a defensive measure rather than a deterrent.
Behaving smart in bear country is still the most effective way to prevent an attack and unpleasant encounters. The use of sprays should be used as a last resort.
Read More: Do Bears Attack Camping Tents?
How to Bearproof your Yard
Bearproofing is a set of tips you can apply to your home and prevent bear encroachment. These measures are recommendable for people who live near bear territory and are said to be the most effective method to reduce bear encounters and potential attacks.
1. Opt for Bear-proof Trashcans
These cans can be purchased online or in specialized stores. They’re designed with twist-and-lock lids which make it extremely hard for the bear to open it.
They’re additionally reinforced on all sides, which makes things even harder for the bear and it will eventually go away.
It’s even better to keep garbage cans in sheds or in garages so that they don’t attract bears in the first place.
2. Invest in Electric Fencing
According to Bear Smart, installing electric fences keeps bears away from properties by causing a slight electric shock if the animal touches the charged wires.
It functions as an open circuit with continuous electric pulses that the energizer produces and sends through the wires.
3. Unwelcome Mats
These mats are made using sturdy plywood studded with small nails pointed up.
They’re usually placed outdoors in front of windows and doors where bears could have access.
These mats are considered highly effective in keeping bears away and many people install them in their summer and vacation homes.
4. Keep Pet Food Inside
Bears have a potent sense of smell and if there’s any leftover pet or bird food laying around in your backyard, it may attract a bear that is curious and hungry.
This is why it’ important to keep pet food inside and clean any leftovers.
5. Clean and Close Barbecues After Use
The strong leftover smells and grease in barbecue grills or burn barrels are quite attractive for bears. This is why proper cleaning and storing after use is pivotal for people who live in bear country.
Never bury or throw away the grease in the yard because the bear may eventually get to them. And, always close barbecues and even better, they should be stored indoors in sheds or garages.
Anecdotal evidence claims ammonia is helpful to deter bears because its strong odor is very unpleasant to the bear’s sharp nose. However, it is not a method that’s recommended by experts.
When bears come and feed to one place, they’ll keep coming back, so it’s essential to take the right bearproofing measures like installing an electric fence, and keeping the yard optimally clean and free of any food sources.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.