Bear myths

  -Human sexual activity," claims a Forest Service brochure titled Backpacking, "attracts bears." "I've never found any studies on the topic," counters Alaskan author Dave Smith in his new paperback book, Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters. "If you think about it, we're often told to make noise to avoid surprising bears; during sex, people make all kinds of noise. Maybe human sexual activity deters bears. Maybe it attracts them. Maybe smelly socks attract bears. Nobody knows." From the myth that menstrual odors attract bears to the misconception that bears have poor vision, Smith's book challenges the veracity of dozens of old saws about bears. Yellowstone Grizzly Foundation Research Director Steven P. French describes Backcountry Bear Basics as "practical and refreshing, not full of scientific jargon. (It's) the number-one book I'd recommend to anyone going into bear country." As for the question: What do you do when a black bear or grizzly charges? Smith, a naturalist who has worked in Yellowstone, says you should first stand your ground, and hope the bear backs off. If not, "prepare to defend yourself."


The Mountaineers, 1001 SW Klickitat Way, Seattle, WA 98134. $10.95, 109 pages, illustrated.


*Donna L. Harris


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