How to keep the bears out of your compost bin

Compost responsibly to keep the bears out of your compost heap (and your backyard).

Credit: sjulienphoto/iStockphoto

Bear aware to keep unwanted visitors out of your compost heap (and your backyard)

There have been a lot on bear scares in the news lately. Not long ago, I was asked by a reader how to compost without attracting bears.

Since moving to “bear country,” and attracting one to my outdoor compost bin despite efforts to compost responsibly, I have given up on composting my kitchen waste outside and am now using an indoor composter… but more on that shortly!

First, I wanted to share with you what Lisa Waldie of the Bear Aware program in Sechelt has to say about how to discourage bears from our yards – definitely in our best interest and also theirs.

“Compost is indeed one of the major bear attractants,” confirms Lisa. “What you can do is ensure that no food scraps – bones, eggshells, rotting fruit, cooked food or fats – go into an outdoor compost bin.

In areas where bears are a concern, we recommend you include only garden waste in the compost. Keep an indoor compost (using a worm bin) if possible for food scraps.

Having said that, if people are already keeping an outdoor compost and it hasn’t been attracting bears then they should continue, ensuring that it doesn’t become smelly. Sprinkling lime onto the compost pile will help to reduce odour.

“Our message to people is that a fed bear is a dead bear. Eliminating non-natural food sources is a very simple thing to do – it is just a matter of people understanding the consequences of leaving out bear attractants and cooperating to ensure the neighbourhood’s safety as well as the bears’.

By eliminating access to non-natural food sources, bears will move on. Some people allow bears to feast upon their fruit trees thinking that it is harmless. What this does though is basically encourage the bears to come in the yards. And this in turn, makes the bears think that residential neighbourhoods are “safe” to hang out in and gobble up the fruit and garbage. This is what causes “problem” bears. Neighbourhoods that have unsecured garbage cans or ripe fruit and windfalls not picked are seen as a smorgasbord in a bear’s eyes. We certainly can’t blame the bears for coming in our neighbourhoods for this reason. They don’t know the boundaries or the fact there is a “line” between forests and residential areas.

It all comes down to not allowing the bears to have access to non-natural food sources (garbage, fruit trees, pet food, BBQs, compost, and birdfeeders). Like I said, once those are contained, the bears learn that there is no food available in neighbourhoods and move on. It is a community issue and will take the whole community to solve the issue. That’s why there is a Bear Aware program in place.