Composting in Bear Country

Algonquin Highlands
August 2018

We share our Algonquin Highlands home with wildlife. It is their home and Bears are an important part of the environment. It is up to us to ensure that we do nothing that will cause them harm. Bears that associate us with food will invariably get in trouble. It is critical to manage your property in a way that does not make it inviting to them. It is however, possible to maintain a compost pile and keep your property bear free.

Bears have an incredible sense of smell. Their olfactory bulb is 5 times larger than ours and they can smell food as far away as 20 miles.

Having said that it’s important to keep your property free of enticing smells. Here are a few of the smells we can avoid:

  • No odorous garbage. Putting kitchen scraps in the freezer is one option.
  • Eliminate fruiting plants and trees from the property.
  • Remove bird feeders when the grass turns green and put them back up when the lawn is white again. (many maintain them all year but bring them in at night in summer).
  • Keep your BBQ clean.
  • Do not feed pets outside.
  • Ensure that your compost is not an attraction.

Composting Dos and Dont’s

  • Never add meat, fish, dairy products, oil, unrinsed egg shells, cooked food, or large amounts of fruit to the compost.
  • Always layer the waste that you are adding. It is best to layer kitchen scraps between a dry layer of leaves or grass clippings.
  • Ensure the compost is kept moist, like that of a wrung out sponge. If the contents are too dry, it will take overly long to decompose and if too wet, the contents may begin to smell.
  • Mix or turn your compost on a regular basis. Composting is an aerobic process. The microorganisms and fungi at work require oxygen to break down the organic material.
  • Don’t place your compost close to a door. If a bear does come to your compost, you don’t want to startle a bear
  • Don’t be afraid to add some wood ash to the compost to help control odour.

Compost with extra care in the fall when bears are trying to prepare for hibernation.

While composting in bear country never add the following to your compost. Meat, Fish, Bones, Grains, Rice or Pasta, Dairy, Grease or Oil, Charcoal Briquettes, Dog or Cat feces and kitty litter (for health, not bear reasons)

While nothing can guarantee that you will not encounter a bear on your property these simple guidelines should make for a safe composting experience.

Source documents include:
Composting in Bear Country Revelstoke
Composting with care in bear country Squamish

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