The Grizzly Bear Nose
When out with the grizzly bears I try to be present with the fact that bears navigate the world with their noses. This takes some effort considering that for humans sight is the predominant sense, and smell is probably one of our least used senses. Bears constantly gather, process, and exchange information using the sense of smell. But how great is a bearís sense of smell?
Grizzly bears are believed to have a sense of smell 100,000 times stronger than a human. This bear skull shows the huge nasal cavity of a grizzly bear. Inside the nasal cavity is a vast network of tissue that looks like honey comb. These tissues create an immense amount of surface area for the processing of scent information.
Top view of a grizzly bear skull showing the large nasal cavity.
Grizzly bears use their sense of smell to detect clams under the sand, making them extremely efficient clam diggers. Their sense of smell is so acute, that they can even smell fish underwater. You will commonly see bears sniffing the surface of the water while trying to catch salmon.
This male grizzly bear (Zeus) sniffs a day bed that was just exited by Athena, a nursing mother. Smelling day beds and areas where other bears have urinated is a common way for bears to gain information about one another. Grizzly bear urine contains metabolites of sex hormones, and a male bear can probably tell how receptive a female is to mating by sniffing her urine.
© 2008 Jessica Teel