Bears and other wildlife are attracted to unusual scents, especially anything that could potentially be mistaken as food, such as often-sweet-smelling, aromatic pipe tobacco or cigars. However, you're essentially just burning the material and just creating smoke. And animals general aren't attracted to fire or smoke. I can imagine this one going either way, and I haven't really found a definitive answer anywhere. Personal experience leads me to think it's generally safe, but I'm only one person in one region, in one country.

Could smoking pipe tobacco or a cigar attract bears and/or other wildlife? Especially predators? If so, what specifically is the main danger: the unsmoked tobacco, the vaporizing of the tobacco through smoking, or the leftovers?

I know that this could lead into a conversation about smoking anything, but for the sake of this one, let's keep it to aromatic tobacco smoking, not including cigarettes.

  • I used to live near a golf course that had a lot of deer on it. Local lore was that when golfers would pull out a cigarette, deer would often mug them for it.
    – user2169
    Oct 31, 2013 at 0:10
  • I very often smoke my pipe on hiking trips (day hikes & multi-day trips). I have yet to encounter any wildlife that was drawn to it here in the Southeastern US. That said, I always hang the tobacco & pipe with the rest of the "smellables" in the bear bag just due to the assumption that it was a potential risk to not do so. Better safe than sorry.
    – montane
    Feb 20, 2014 at 5:36

2 Answers 2


To get an official answer to this question, I decided to email the National Park Service at Yosemite NP. The park ranger said:

Bears are attracted to "food" odors. When talking about food storage, anything that has an odor regardless of packaging is considered "food." For this reason, cigarettes and other tobacco products are considered food.

Bears are just curious. If they smell something, they might just get curious enough to come investigate. And if anyone knows how curious a bear can be, it's a Yosemite NP park ranger.

  • This is great, but what about the smoke? I know you can't have the smoke without the tobacco, but just curious if there was some information regarding that aspect.
    – montane
    Feb 20, 2014 at 5:29
  • 1
    @manoftheson The idea here is that the smell of smoke might attract a curious bear. I have seen bears approach camp fires almost a dozen times while camping and backpacking: do not make the mistake that smoke will ward off bears or coyotes. Feb 20, 2014 at 16:59
  • I'm with ya man. I think you should include that in your answer.
    – montane
    Feb 28, 2014 at 10:24

Bears are not naturally attracted to smoke - except for Smoky the Bear. Same goes for mountain lions, wolves, etc - they will generally avoid smoke (actually, all mammals will) for obvious reasons. I suppose there is always some incredibly unlikely scenario where a bear (or other animal) has become habituated to smoke and associates it with food, somehow, but I think you can take your chances. While there are always warnings about hiding deodorant, toothpaste, etc, the risk is incredibly overblown except in areas where people have engaged in poor campsite practices, and I don't think tobacco would really fall into the same category (things which smell sweet or sugary). The significantly greater danger is that you will burn down the forest.

  • 1
    I understand where you're coming from, but what is your basis for this answer? I know it's not likely that there is some study out there about tobacco and bears, but it would be helpful to have some kind of references to help back your point.
    – montane
    Feb 20, 2014 at 5:27

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