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Composting in Black Bear Country  RSS feed

 
Tom Gauthier
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Location: U.P., Michigan
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My wife and I are in the process of buying a 20 acre property that we'll be developing into a sustainable homestead. The location is in an area with a significant black bear population.

Does anyone out there have experience with composting in an area that has black bears? Are there any special precautions that can be taken to keep the bears away?

Our compost pile will contain mostly vegetable scraps, but of course there could be a few meat scraps, etc.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-Tom
 
Seth Japheth
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i would make sure to put the pile downwind from bears and maybe bury the pile a little so its like an underground compost pile, ive heard not to put meat in there
 
Kyle Neath
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Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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When you say black bear country do you mean an area where bears are routinely seen around neighborhoods, or that you live far enough in the woods to be in their native habitat?

In my experience the first type of bears are the hardest to deal with. Once a trash bear, always a trash bear. Bears are incredibly smart and persistent, All standard "make sure it doesn't smell" type of advice has not worked for me. A bear will tear through a compost pile just to see how it feels if they have any hint there might be something yummy inside. My advice for these types of areas is to go one of two routes:

1. An indoor (could be garage / barn) cold-composting method like a worm bin or bokashi.

2. Barrel or similar type totally-enclosed compost container

But if you're not in trash-bear country and just regular bear country, I think you'd be fine with a well-balanced compost pile. I'd get it going with a pile of manure (so you start with a hot pile) and make sure you have plenty of carbon available to bury scraps. And maybe locate it somewhere you aren't liable to be near nighttime, and away from your cars or house.  The more manure / yard scraps and the fewer food scraps, the better off you'll be.
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My second night composting in trash-bear country
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Roberto pokachinni
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Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Well, I can safely say that composting in bear country is not without it's potential challenges

As has been noted, bears are creatures of habit.  They also have a keen sense of smell.  If a bear gets in the habit of harvesting from your compost... well it's a habit... they get to know where food is, and they return.  A bear will find rotting meat, unless it is composting hot.  If you are concerned about meat, then burn it in your wood stove or fire pit until it is pretty inert, then compost or bio-char the bones, or go the bokashi route. 

The griz that came through my land last year found the lone apple on my only bearing young fruit tree, but did not touch either of my composts.  I've had a black bear go into my compost two years ago, but he or she has thankfully not returned.  They are more interested in the clover in my meadow and the dairy calves down the road. 

There are ways to keep bears away from things, such as electric fences, and spike boards, but... they can be a bit of a nuisance in themselves, and you better set them up right or they are useless. 

I had a nearby friend with an enormous grizzly routinely feeding in her compost (which was not very well managed---just a heap of rot), for most of a summer and she just went about her gardening as if she still was in charge.  She's pretty ballsy, for an old lady.  Her dog had died, and there was the need to tend the garden, so she just figured the bear would go about it's business and she would hers and there would be nothing to worry about.  Thankfully she was right enough, but it didn't have to be that way.  Bears are indeed wild and completely unpredictable. 

One never knows who the last person was that the bear had to deal with.  Did they throw a bear banger?  Did they fire a rifle?  Did they sound a horn?  Did they run at the bear?   Did they pepper spray it?  Did they sick a dog on it?  Or did they just smile and wave as I do, and say, "Hey Cousin, I'm going over here. I hope you have a good day." and then go about my business, keeping a watchful eye on what it's next move is.

The best thing to do, is to have a good, well trained dog.  A dog does not have to be very big to chase and nip at a bear enough to keep it clear.   
 
Tom Gauthier
Posts: 55
Location: U.P., Michigan
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Thanks for the feedback.

We are in the woods not a neighborhood so I'm pretty sure these are not trash-bears. I'm not saying we're overrun with bears, but I have seen plenty of sign on the property ... scat, rotten logs ripped open, etc.

I think the combination of bokashi for meat/kitchen scraps along with a hot pile will work fine. We will have humanure compost bins, but since those are just poop and will be hot, I don't think they'll be a problem.

-Tom
 
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