BearWise #2

Secure Food, Garbage and Recycling

It’s all food to a black bear!

A bear’s strongest sense is smell. They can pick up a scent from over a mile away! That is more than seven times better than a bloodhound. Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food, liquids or garbage.

bearwise - garbage safetyVisit the Keep Bears Out page to view a variety of solutions for securing garbage and recycling like this one.

Safety for You, Your Neighbors & the Bears

If you and your neighbors keep your food and garbage secure from bears, you will go a long way toward keeping bears in the wild and out of your neighborhood. We urge you to follow this list of simple precautions.

1) Human foods, from picnic lunches to spilled snacks on the ground, can easily attract bears. Never leave human foods outside unattended. Pick up all leftovers and bring them inside. For bear-resistant food storage options, see Keep Bears Out.

2) Garbage and recycling should be stored where bears can’t smell or access to it: either in a bear-resistant container or inside a bear-resistant building. For bear-resistant garbage and recycling options, see Keep Bears Out.

  • Haul garbage and recycling to an approved disposal site as often as possible, but at least once a week to avoid buildup of odors.
  • Garbage and recycling pick-up? If you have garbage pick-up once or twice a week, put your cans on the curb the morning of pick-up, never the night before.

3) Composting: The safest way to compost in bear country is to create your compost pile inside an electric fence or use one of the many available bins, tumblers or outdoor containers meant to keep odors in and bears out. Read more…

be bearwise - trash and animals
Anything that attracts dogs or raccoons will attract bears, too!

What is a secure container, and where can I get one?

Secure = Bear-Resistant

Bears are extremely strong with deft claws and sharp teeth. If they have time (like all night long…) and motivation (hunger!), they can get into anything not specifically designed to keep them out.

A bear-resistant trash can or dumpster looks just like the ones you know, but has been reinforced with locks or a push-to-open latching system. In addition, bear-resistant dumpster lids must be made of metal or reinforced with metal, not just plastic.

Black bear trying to get into a bear-resistant trash can (Photo: Candie Howard)

Purchase Bear-Resistant Containers

If your waste service provider does not offer bear-resistant trash cans, you can purchase your own wildlife-resistant container or dumpster. Before purchasing a bear-resistant container, check with your waste service provider to ensure they will service it.  The up-front cost is worth it when considering replacement of ruined garbage cans and time spent picking up scattered trash. Your action on behalf of bears will make a difference for bears and your community.

Find resources on our Keep Bears Out page.

Reinforced bear-resistant dumpster (Photo: LDWF)

Do-It-Yourself Bear-Resistant Containers & Barriers

Some homemade containers and barriers can be made with items you can purchase from local hardware stores. Others can be purchased online. Contact your local fish and game officer for recommendations.

Find more resources on our Keep Bears Out page about electric fencing, trash can enclosures, unwelcome mats, protecting beehives, and more.

Electric fence installation around beehives (Photo: LDWF)

compost in hands

BearWise Composting

There’s no doubt that composting is good for the planet and compost is good for growing things. The safest way to compost in bear country is to create your compost pile inside an electric fence or use one of the many available bins, tumblers or outdoor containers meant to keep odors in and bears out.

Food smells can attract bears to compost piles. Composting experts say that if your compost stinks, there’s stuff in there that shouldn’t be, or your pile isn’t getting enough oxygen or being turned enough to decompose properly.

Green + Brown = Good

Good compost piles use the right proportions of green and brown so that ingredients break down more quickly and don’t smell.  Carbon-rich browns include dry leaves, straw and hay, wood chips and shavings, small sticks and twigs, dry grass and dry garden clippings, shredded newspaper, paper towels and napkins, uncoated cardboard and paper and paper packaging such as egg cartons. Nitrogen-rich greens include veggies, small amounts of fruits, rinsed and pulverized eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags and loose tea, fresh grass and garden clippings. Don’t compost weeds; weed seeds may survive and come back to haunt you.

Composting No-Nos

Avoid adding meats, bones, dairy products, fats, unrinsed eggshells, garbage and leftovers or large amounts of fruit to your compost pile. Bears will follow their noses and often scatter compost piles from one end of the yard to the other searching for the food they smelled.

Indoor Composting

Indoor composters come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from attractive countertop containers to units big enough to put in the basement or (locked) garage. Some people use a covered container that fits in the frig to collect appropriate kitchen scraps all week, and then carefully mix them into their pile (never leave them sitting on top.)

Read more about composting here:

Top and bottom photos: FWC