With more and more people encountering problems with bears looking for food near their homes, and with the new food scrap ban now in effect Vermont Fish & Wildlife is providing tips for people who are composting at home so they can avoid attracting hungry bears.

“We have been receiving lots of reports of bears on decks, tearing down bird feeders, wrecking beehives, killing chickens and getting into trash, compost and garbage containers,” said bear biologist Forrest Hammond. “Some folks will be new at composting food waste at home, so we are offering some guidance on how to do that without providing additional attractants for the bears.”

First, to deter bears, take down bird feeders until there is a foot or more of snow in December. Then, make sure anything else that might smell like food is picked up. Keep trash containers secured inside a sturdy building and don’t put it outside until the morning of pickup. 

Beehives, chicken coops and compost bins can be protected with electric fencing.

The best way to avoid attracting bears is to take food scraps to one of the drop-off stations. Contact the local solid waste management district or town at 802recycles.com or ask your trash hauler if they pick up food scraps for composting. 

Composting at home while minimizing the chances of attracting bears can best be done with these tips:

Use three parts of brown material for one part of green material. Browns can be dried leaf and yard debris, wood chips, which often can be delivered to your house free by a local tree service company, or shredded paper. Greens include kitchen scraps, vegetables and small amounts of fruits. Adding lots of brown material minimizes smells and speeds up composting.

No meat or bones. They do not break down quickly and are strong wildlife attractants. 

The new food scrap ban does allow people who compost at home to dispose of meat and bones in the trash, even after July 1, so they can be kept in a freezer until trash day.  

Give your compost oxygen by frequently mixing it or turning it over if it is in a container. This reduces odors and speeds up composting.

Does your compost smell? If so, turning it, adding more brown material and adding a layer of wood shavings or sawdust to the top should solve the issue.

Compost in a hard, durable container with a lid that will be challenging for a bear to open. Some types of tumblers are bear-proof.

Electric fencing, with food scent added to the wires, around your compost will discourage even persistent bears. 

If you are currently having a bear issue, delay starting your new compost pile until the bear issue resolves. Until then, keep food scraps in the freezer or bring them to a collection site.

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