Fact or Fiction: Periods Attract Wild Animals
A few weeks ago, my partner and I were up in the north woods of Minnesota enjoying a long weekend away. We spent our days out in nature. Hiking the hillsides, swimming in the lagoons of waterfalls, and enjoy vast views of the coniferous forests that stretched high above our heads. I was also on my period. Why is this relevant? Well, I’m sure, like me, growing up you no doubt were told to be cautious if you are outdoors and menstruating. Why? Because you can attract bears, or if you are in the ocean, you can attract sharks. If you think about it, this sounds like it could be true. Right? Well, let's find out.
FACT OR FICTION: If I’m menstruating, I will attract wild animals
Even though it sounds like it could be true, you will not attract bears, sharks, fire ants, snakes, wolves or any other animal if you are out in the wild while you’re menstruating. Interestingly enough, a 1991 study published by the Journal of Wildlife Management titled "Reactions of Black Bears on Human Menstrual Odors" confirmed that bears (black bears, anyway) don’t care if you’re menstruating.
According to the study’s abstract:
“Due to widespread concern that menstruating women might be attacked by black bears (Ursus americanus), we recorded responses of 26 free-ranging black bears to tampons from 26 women and recorded responses of 20 free-ranging bears to 4 menstruating women in northeastern Minnesota. Menstrual odors were essentially ignored by black bears of all ages and either sex, regardless of season or the bear's reproductive status. In an extensive review of black bear attacks across North America, we found no instance of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women.”
OK, so if bears could care less about menstrual blood, where does this myth come from?
Well, as it turns out, the myth that bears are attracted to menstruating women began in 1977 when two female hikers were attacked and killed by Grizzly bears in Glacier National Park. Coincidentally, both women were on their periods. This caused major panic among outdoor enthusiasts and widespread warnings were issued to women to not hike or camp while menstruating. Dare I say it created an unfounded hysteria?
Alright, so bears don't care, but what about sharks? We’ve all seen the following scene played out on Animal Planet: scientists are studying sharks, they drop the blood-soaked meat into the water to draw them in, the sharks attack the bait. Ergo, sharks are attracted to blood. Fortunately, there was a 1963 study conducted by the Shark Research Committee to research this very phenomenon (the study is not available online). In the study, the researchers attempted to attract sharks by dropping different types of bodily fluids into the water (menstrual blood included). The results? Sharks don’t care about your period, either. In fact, sharks aren’t really attracted to human blood at all. In truth, the only type of blood that elicits a feeding frenzy among sharks is that of other marine animals. Blood from seals, for example, contains a different scent than human blood. This scent alerts the shark that the marine animal is injured and thus vulnerable to attack.
If you’re still not convinced, take diver and founder of the Shark Research Institutes Marie Levine’s word for it. She was quoted in an article on this very subject for Mother Jones in 2012:
“I’ve been diving for decades and even got my period while underwater with a school of hammerheads — the sharks were not interested and I had to fin like crazy to get close to them.”
So, there you have it. Your period will not make you more vulnerable to wild animal attacks. So don’t be afraid to get out there and enjoy all that the great outdoors have to offer!