# On bears and menstruating women

(See Cecil’s column here)

The line that struck me in this column was:

Let’s assume, just for a moment, that bears really couldn’t care less about menstruating women, and that the average woman’s period happens once every 30 days and lasts for 3 days. Statistically, then, one out of every ten women attacked by a bear would be menstruating at the time.

Is there really a reason to get panicky just because it happened once, in 1960, for 15 minutes, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench–oops, I mean once, in 1967, in Glacier National Park, for as long as it takes a bear to kill two women?

Lasts three days? Three days? THREE DAYS?

I only wish it lasted a mere three days.

Well, obviously, your mileage may vary. I was picking a nice, round, easy number for statistical purposes, based on experience with one wife and one daughter.

Not really. Unprovoked bear attacks–even brown/grizzly/Kodiak bears–are quite rare; statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning, and the fact that the women were attacked during their menstruation period may be entirely coincidental. Note also that bears are not primarily predators; when confronted with an erect human, most bears–particularly black bears–will retreat. Those who have learned to ransack campsites and forage through dumpsters may be somewhat more forward and aggressive with people, but are unlikely to challenge a group of people.

But as humans we tend to look for causal links, and if they don’t exist, to synthesize them. Never mind the mass of women over the years who have not been attacked by bears while menstruating, or the (few) who have been attacked while not bleeding. This is, I believe, what is generlly called a False Discovery error in statistical analysis. For those interested in enduring the really minimal amount of math to understand why this is true, here’s a page that explains how to account for false positives and false negatives in a statistical assessment.

Stranger

The bolding was mine.

Uncle Cecil’s sources were apparently pulling his leg. Used sanitary napkins and used tampons are a popular deer lure. Deer are very curious critters, and odd things like small portable radios and human menstrual blood will bring in the deer to check them out. When I was a janitor, a fellow named Catfish would ask me for a bag of used feminine products every year just before deer season. Repelled? No.

Yes I am.

Are you sure he wanted them for deer hunting?

I’m pretty sure. Several other hunters that I know use the same lure, though most of them get the items from girlfriends or wives. Deer have a highly developed sense of smell; that’s how they find mates in the vast forest. Human hunters often mask their own scent with the stronger scent of fox urine :eek: dribbled on the ground near the hunter.