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Composting in Bear Country

Composting is possible in bear country.

However, Vermont has seen an increase of bear-human interactions so it’s important to take a few steps to discourage bears, and to manage your compost so it doesn’t attract animals. Here’s how:

Composting in Bear Country Poster

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  • Take down your bird feeders! A bird feeder is hanging bear bait. Bears can smell bird seed from 1–2 miles away, so the best thing you can do to keep bears away is give up your bird feeding hobby and landscape with native plants that attract birds instead.
  • When composting, use three times as many browns as greens. This minimizes smells and speeds up the composting process.

    • Browns include: dead leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, sawdust and low-quality household paper products that are shredded or cut up, like tissue paper, egg cartons, paper towels, junk mail, newspaper, paper bags, and cardboard rolls.

    • Greens include: kitchen scraps, vegetables, and small amounts of fruits.

  • Regularly turn your pile so materials compost more quickly.

  • Compost fresh scraps in an enclosed container that would be challenging for a bear to open. Tumblers are especially challenging for bears to open.

  • Do not add meat scraps or bones to your compost pile. You can put these items in the trash, freeze them to drop-off for composting when you have enough, or bury them by pit-composting or trench-composting.

  • Deter bears by soaking a rag in ammonia and leave the rag in a plastic bucket next to your compost system. Bears’ sensitive noses will be repelled by the ammonia smell, and they will stay away. Replace every 2–3 weeks. If you are managing your pile with browns and turning it regularly, and you have left the ammonia-soaked rag nearby, bears will not be interested. 

  • If a bear comes on your property make some noise. Yell or bang pots and pans (or both) so it has an unpleasant experience, making it less likely to return.

  • To keep rodents and smaller animals out, line your compost system with 1/4'' hardware cloth.

Bears Still Showing Up?

  • Check with your neighbors. Is anyone leaving out birdseed or other treats for bears? Minimizing bear-human interactions saves bears lives and makes human lives safer, but everyone needs to work together. One person attracting a bear with birdseed can bring a bear into an entire neighborhood.
  • Stop composting at home until the bear leaves the area or surround your bin with an electric fence (smear peanut butter on the fence so the bear gets a little zap to the face).

  • Contact VT Fish and Wildlife for advice before the bear becomes a problem

​More Resources on Composting