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Compost and bears  RSS feed

 
darien payne
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Has anyone any experience with keeping bears out of or away from compost piles? We're new to living in the foothills of the Cascades and have found that bears frequent our land... and eat apples, berries, and apparently rummage through the compost. Is there any solution that does not involve elaborate electric fencing?
 
Brenda Groth
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i'd let them rummage, they are just turning your pile for you.

we had bears in the past..the biggest problem was when dnr did a lot of clear cutting..they did replant but they replanted seedlings..and the bear had nothing left..no shelter...no food..no nuthing..

so they would come and raid everything, the bird feeders, garbage and compost..but since then we haven't had any problem with the bears..the woods are growing back and they either moved on, died, were hunted out, or just have found enough food to get by on?

they also stopped baiting or feeding bear and deer in Michigan now so they are less drawn to humanity and more drawn to nature.
 
Leah Sattler
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I would be hesitant to let bears think the areas around my home contained lunch.

electric fencing need not be complicated. if you can get one or several grounding rods in (deep soil) then a small plug in charger made for livestock and a roll of aluminum wire and some step in posts then I think you could make something that would deter most large animals from rummaging through your stuff.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Not sure if this works for bear, but my part of the world has lots of raccoon, opossum, etc.  They haven't come after meat, cheese, fruit, bread, etc. in my compost.

I make sure that new additions of food are always surrounded by a fairly thick layer of browns to absorb odors.  This has other benefits, like speeding decomposition and retaining nutrients and moisture, but they're all the same thing: it's like giving your compost microbes a turbinate bone, or heat-recovery ventilator.

This certainly won't work if the bears in your area know what to expect from your compost pile already, but I say it's worth doing no matter if you decide to take other measures against bear or not.
 
rose macaskie
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  Its nice to know you can put meat and cheese in the compost if you surrond them with browns, i have refrained from putiing that sort of stuff in in case i got rats and the neighbors could really get at me. agri rose macaskie.
 
Brenda Groth
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myself i don't put meat or grease or any animal products into my compost pile..if i throw them out..which would be seldom..i would bury them..

if we are forced to kill a maurading animal..we also bury it in our garden..racoons come to mind..

in winter you might be able to eat the mauraders..but not in the heat of summer..as diseases would have me questioning the sense of eating wild critters...until cold is upon us
 
Leah Sattler
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the only animal derived products that go into my compost are eggshells.
 
paul wheaton
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part 1)  we're talking about black bears, right?  Why do you want them to go away?

part B)  Do you have dogs?

 
                    
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rose macaskie wrote:
  Its nice to know you can put meat and cheese in the compost if you surrond them with browns, i have refrained from putiing that sort of stuff in in case i got rats and the neighbors could really get at me. agri rose macaskie.


Just read about an interesting rat baiting station in farm show ... the bait is a mix of oats and plaster of Paris. It kills by solidifying in the rats gut, without posing a poison risk to other animals that might eat the rat. The bait is kept dry in a PVC pipe, which can have a few twists and turns to keep out larger animals like teh dog.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Brenda Groth wrote:
myself i don't put meat or grease or any animal products into my compost pile..if i throw them out..which would be seldom..i would bury them..

if we are forced to kill a maurading animal..we also bury it in our garden..racoons come to mind..

in winter you might be able to eat the mauraders..but not in the heat of summer..as diseases would have me questioning the sense of eating wild critters...until cold is upon us


When I get my own place, I'll definitely prefer trench composting for animal products.

At the moment, there's just too much pavement!
 
Leah Sattler
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paul wheaton wrote:
part 1)  we're talking about black bears, right?  Why do you want them to go away?




I don't know about the op but personally I wouldn't want bears, even just black bears rummaging through my stuff. they can be dangerous and destructive and its not good for the bears to be eating people food. even if your food is safe, conditioning them to associate people with food will lead them places where the food is not good for them.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Saw an interesting article the other day, with a bear-resistant compost bin that reminds me of an old-fashioned backyard incinerator:

http://www.cityfarmer.info/?p=2364
 
paul wheaton
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
When I get my own place, I'll definitely prefer trench composting for animal products.

At the moment, there's just too much pavement!


First, for some critters, I suspect it could we wise to feed your omnivores or your carnivores with it. 

After that, I wonder a bit about the maggot feeders for chickens or trout.


 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote:First, for some critters, I suspect it could we wise to feed your omnivores or your carnivores with it.

After that, I wonder a bit about the maggot feeders for chickens or trout.


Both good ideas. 

I could do vermicomposting, but don't want to use indoor space for it.

My current lease doesn't allow me to keep animals.  When that changes...I wonder how a cat would do with a chicken bone, if it would need to be ground down or what?  I know they can chew up the bones of small birds and mammals.
 
paul wheaton
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I wonder how a cat would do with a chicken bone, if it would need to be ground down or what?  I know they can chew up the bones of small birds and mammals.


My understanding (and this is shaky) is that you can give a cat any kind of raw bone.  But some cooked bones can be problematic.

 
Gwen Lynn
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paul wheaton wrote:
My understanding (and this is shaky) is that you can give a cat any kind of raw bone.  But some cooked bones can be problematic.


Cooked chicken bones are the worst. If we are talking house cats here, you should always be careful with bones, especially if the cat is not accustomed to eating them. Much has been written about the raw food diet for cats and dogs. If a cat has been on dry food most of it's life, switching them to raw food can be really tricky. Some cats won't make the switch. A friend tried everything to get her cat to switch, but he wouldn't give up his kibble for anything.
 
Chuck Freeman
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I live in an area with one of the heaviest concentrations of both black bears and brown bears in Alaska. We have one mouthy black lab that runs loose, we not had a single bear problem since we got him. Before we got our dog it was nothing to see 1 or 2  bears  night come through the yard.
 
                          
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Don't put food in the compost pile. 
We give leftovers to chickens, goats eat veggie scraps. 
All that's really left is onion skins, potato peels and egg shells.  Not big bear attractors...

Definitely do not let the bears think it's ok to shop at your house.  I have much experience here.  Bad idea.
 
Chuck Freeman
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I live in one of the highest concentrations of bears in Alaska I also spend four months a year guiding bear hunters. There is no way you are going to hide food odors from a bear. The University of Mont. did a study on bear olfactory senses in the 70's or 80's I forget exactly when.  For every thing you can smell a decent blood hound can smell about 500 things. For everything a bloodhound smells  black bear and brownie can smell about 3000 things. Bears also have the ability to sort out smells and determine what direction a particular smell is coming from.
Your best bet is to do like goatman said feed the scrape to the chickens. Just compost non-food items. You can also get a dog almost any will work just so it has a good nose and will bark when bears come around.
We live on a travel way between a couple of salmon streams when don't have a dog we get a lot of bears coming through the yard at times when we have a dog we never see bears. Dogs may not be as effective if the local bears are acclimated to people but they are certainly worth a try.

One last thing never allow a bear to hang around especially black bears they are to unpredictable. It has also been my experience they are more predatory and aggressive than brown bears particularly mature boars.
 
                          
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We've had some bold bears around here, and have discovered that they can be "trained" with rubber buckshot from a shotgun.
 
                  
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Chuck and goatguy have it right. If you live or camp in bear country use common sense and don't leave food out in the open. If you do you're asking for trouble.
I've only ever had a bear rumage my compost once - a young fella, probably just curious. All he did was stir it up though since all there is to find is garden trimmings, veggie scraps, egshells etc.
Skunks used to be more of a problem but I've taken to chopping my compost periodically with a shovel then covering it with a layer of grass clippings. The skunks seem to leave it alone now.
 
Brenda Groth
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we have a lot of bear in our area, as long as bear are well fed they really do not pose much of a problem for humans..and they seldom bother our compost pile..a rouge bear, usually a male that is leaving the family on his own, might tear into our bird feeders or garbage on garbage day, but generally they don't..of course we aren't near any large national parks where the bear get garbage all the time either.

i don't put animal leftovers or grease into my compost pile. It is either burnt in our wood furnace or goes in our garbage..not in the compost..but if it did go outside it would be buried.

no sense to be stupid and draw them in.

much more destructive than bear are racoons, we have a baby one right now in a live trap that we are going to take deep into the woods and let loose..he is just too cute to kill..and will likely find his way back here someday..but for now while he is little it will be live and let live..he is going for a long ride in the woods.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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I suppose this answers the age old question, "oes a bear eat **** in the woods?" 
 
Brenda Groth
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bear hunters bait bear with smelly piles..so if it isn't smelly it isn't going to be as attractive either..

they will always find your berries and apples though
 
Leif Kravis
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i cant cite a source but read somwhere that by moving a young racoon more than a mile or two from where it was born  reduces its survial rate to near zero. apprently without mom to teach em where to find food they are likely to starve.
 
Walter Jeffries
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darien wrote:
Has anyone any experience with keeping bears out of or away from compost piles? We're new to living in the foothills of the Cascades and have found that bears frequent our land... and eat apples, berries, and apparently rummage through the compost. Is there any solution that does not involve elaborate electric fencing?


I had professional negotiators work out a truce with the bears: our dogs. Big Dogs. Livestock guardian and herding dogs. Bears are fine, outside our fields. The dogs mark the territory with scent and sound. Bears don't invade. This is not a one dog job.
 
Len Ovens
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Gwen Lynn wrote:
Cooked chicken bones are the worst. If we are talking house cats here, you should always be careful with bones, especially if the cat is not accustomed to eating them.


After you have boiled the bones to make soup for a few days (you should, the bones contain some of the best parts of the chicken) I can eat the bones. They go so soft they crumble between your fingers... shouldn't be a problem for dogs or cats then.
 
                            
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Bone disposal?

That's a problem I have. I'm fortunate to get lots of meat scraps at butchering time from the local farmers/ranchers, etc. for my dogs. I usually get several hundred pounds. When all is said and done, I have bones everywhere. Not a good scene, I don't like walking out side and having to step over bones. Does anyone have any great suggestions for disposal of large quantities of bones?

Bears haven't been a problem for me yet... and I don't want them to be. Right now I feel like I've set the banquet table for them.

I have several poodles    who tend to keep the bears/cats away. They are somewhat tolerant of coyotes. Basically, they ignore each other except at night. Then the canine orchestra begins. I'm quite entertained by poodles singing with the yotes. They each have their own style and it's funny to hear them mixed together. After every great yote/poodle concert, I have a neighbor who calls to warn me about the wolves in our area I'm not saying a word.....
 
Walter Jeffries
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Bones decompose. I compost up to 1,600 lb pigs in our compost piles. Given the right conditions there is nothing left but a grey stain. Turn the pile and then that is gone too. Makes for a wonderful rich soil amendment. You need a bed of carbon such as wood chips, then the bones, carcass, etc. Add other materials if you like as well. Puncture the gut. Top with a foot or two of additional carbon material. Old compost also works well. In a few months turn the pile over. See:

http://flashweb.com/?s=compost

If you want to recover the bones cleaned then use loose hay and rather than having a moist pile. Useful for skulls in particular.

-Walter
in Vermont
 
                            
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Excellent! Thanks so much.

I have compost piles already.... use them for disposing of dog waste and for the toilet....
So that's a terrific and much appreciated suggestion which will work well for me.

Thanks again!
 
Walter Jeffries
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To get bones to compost the key is moisture. Even teeth will vanish. The moist compost produces acids that break down the bones and teeth. Not too wet of course, just Goldilocks.
 
Werner Gysi
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darien wrote:
Has anyone any experience with keeping bears out of or away from compost piles? We're new to living in the foothills of the Cascades and have found that bears frequent our land... and eat apples, berries, and apparently rummage through the compost. Is there any solution that does not involve elaborate electric fencing?


Try marking your territory, pea around the compost. Throw your wood ash on top of the compost or use lime to cut down on the smell that attracts the bear. Don't throw fish smelly stuff on the compost. However, if the bear is desperate he will eat whatever there is. They are very considerate and would not take from such a compost heap (covered with lime and/or ash) if not in trouble. So you may have to live with it.
 
Brenda Groth
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there are dogs running in our neighborhood but we don't own one, and we still do have bears on our property...they tend to come at night while we are asleep. Maybe they DO come to our proeprty cause we don't have dogs here..I'm sure they can tell. They leave me evidence of their visits, but they seldom do any damage..other than some stains from their feces on my rear deck which they figure is a bear outhouse.

when you live in bear country, you are going to have bear. You just have to use some common sense around them. I grow all kinds of food on the property here that bear love..but they seldom bother it..they prefer the wild stuff like wild cherries, huckleberries, etc..they do like the drops off of our apple trees though.

 
Walter Jeffries
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Brenda Groth wrote:there are dogs running in our neighborhood but we don't own one, and we still do have bears on our property...when you live in bear country, you are going to have bear.


No, not someone else's dogs. Livestock guardian dogs that guard your territory are necessary. Ours will kill the bears if they comes in too close. But they don't. Bears don't want to risk it. We live in bear country. One lives just up the mountain to the south of us, another across the valley to the east and another to the north. Our main farm area is at the intersection of the territories of these three bears.

The problem you're having is you don't have your own dogs who have a reason to defend you. The neighborhood dogs aren't going to lay down the law for you. Territory is key.
 
                          
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It would take a lot of dogs to kill a bear...
 
                            
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If you are in an area where people hound hunt, bears have been "taught" a bit of respect for dogs.  I live in an area with a high bear population. I have never had any bear related problems. I have several dogs, I have an outdoor play area/kennel, which always has some dogs in it (they rotate as to who is with me, who is in the house... etc).  They bark if anything is amiss (or there are any bears around!). So far it has worked great at keeping the bear and mountain lions away. The coyotes could care less, had one hike his leg on the dog kennel one day. It's not uncommon to see coyotes within 15 to 20 feet of the kennel area.

Anyway, if a bear has had an adverse experience with dogs, then it often doesn't take much more then some barking to motivate them to leave the area.

I did have a hound hunter have his hounds run through my property while after a mountain lion. What that tells me is.. the scent was there.. I guess I just didn't see the lion.
 
solomon martin
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Here is a method that worked successfully to keep a problem bear out of the dog food on the porch.  It seems counter intuitive but it worked for me.  Buy a pound of hamburger, a bottle of powdered cayenne, and a handful of ground black pepper.  Make a spicy meatball.  Leave for bear.

Another similar idea, unproven as of yet, is to insert a hot wire from an electric fence onto a piece of sausage, turn the juice all the way up, and wait for a shocking experience.
 
            
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An acquaintance of mine who has hunted bears for eons and studied them extensively says that they absolutely hate electricity.  The people around here who raise bees for honey use solar chargers and three to four strands of wire around their hives, and never have any trouble.
We had one here last spring who was munching last years hazelnuts.  When it heard me it stuck it's head up and looked at me for a few seconds, then went back to eating. 
I went and got my 12 gauge which is loaded with slugs for just such an occasion.  Gave him the benefit of the doubt and a chance to leave with a shot to the side of him.  He chose to leave and never saw him again.
Bears are opportunists and will eat the dog food off your porch, and are pretty much not afraid of you.  They might be of your gun, but bear in mind that they can get up to 35 MPH in a very, very short time, uphill or down. 
The best thing to do is to not allow a food source to be established for them.  Compost, I told which contains food stuffs from your kitchen should be buried at least 8 inches in the existing compost.  I don't know if that works, but that is what the feds say keeps them out of your compost.
In spring, bet that you will run into a bear somewhere close, if you have them in your area, as they are hungry and looking for anything to eat. 
We never go out into our woods without some sort of appropriate sidearm, just in case.  It takes a lot to stop a bear.
 
                        
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Chuck & goat guy are right.  Do not allow bears to get their lunch on your property or you won't get rid of them.  I live in south central Alaska where there is a heavy black & brown bear population.  Bears constantly roaming through town getting into dumpster, dog food, etc.  Once they get a meal they keep coming back until they are trapped & moved or put down.  I don't have any experience composting (yet) but I would defiantly refrain from any meat, cheese, ect. In your pile with bears around.    My friend has a salmon spawning stream running through his yard and ALWAYS has bears roaming through.  He is getting a dog to help with this problem so we'll see how much this helps.  I doubt they will completely stay away but it may help deter them a bit.
 
Walter Jeffries
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goatguy wrote:It would take a lot of dogs to kill a bear...


Two dogs to a bear. But, it isn't a matter of killing the bear. The trick is the dogs negotiate boundaries with the bears. The bears negotiate territories with each other. Killing the bears is actually not the right method because when you kill one bear then a new bear will move into that territory and negotiations have to start all over again.

The key is dogs act as deterrence with their marking of the territory you want the predators to keep out of. Fence lines help because they define the edge of the territory for both dogs and bears. Same for coyotes, humans, etc. Cougar are less respectful of territories but will keep out. They don't want to mess with a pack of dogs.

Remember, animals don't have life or health insurance. They're careful.
 
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