Experts share tips on how to keep bears away from compost

Vt. Fish & Wildlife photo
Keep black bears away by taking down bird feeders, keeping compost smells in check, and protecting chickens and bee hives with electric fencing.

Bears in Vermont are always thinking ahead to winter and, looking to fatten up, search for easy calories.

A backyard compost bin as well as trash cans, bird feeders, and pet food can all attract bears hungry for a snack.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

“With more Vermonters choosing to compost, we want to help them prevent any potential problems with bears,” said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader with Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

“People can effectively reduce the chances of bears causing damage to their property and protect the bears as well.”

Here are a few of Hammond’s tips for safe composting in bear country:

• Keep scent to a minimum by covering all food scraps or “green” materials with carbon-rich “brown” materials such as dry leaves, straw, or ripped-up paper.

• Turn your compost often to aid decomposition.

• Use an enclosed bin lined with wire, or an open pile protected by electric fencing.

• Avoid composting meat or bones.

• For those with backyard chickens, feed some of your food scraps to your chickens and compost the rest; replace scraps for chickens daily.

• For smelly waste, consider trench composting by burying food scraps deeply in your garden.

Alternately, avoid the hassle and take your food scraps to a local drop-off facility. Visit to find a compost collection near you

Also, Fish & Wildlife recommends that bird feeders come down from April 1 to Nov. 30, beehives and chicken coops be protected with electric fencing, and trash and pet food be secured.

For more information on living with black bears or to report a bear incident, visit the “Living with Wildlife” page at

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