How to compost in bear country

The key to composting in bear country can be summed up in two words: odour free - if your compost smells it will attract bears.

As composting gains popularity within our community, here are some helpful tips on how to keep bears out of your compost.

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The first step is ensuring that you have nothing else on your property that might attract a bear. An unlocked garbage tote or outdoor pet food might be the invitation a bear is looking for, and your compost might be an unwitting victim in the bear's pursuit for food.

Ensure that you are turning the compost regularly as this provides oxygen and aids in the decomposing process.

The microorganisms that are working hard in your compost pile require oxygen to break down the organic material; if there isn't sufficient oxygen, anaerobic bacteria will flourish and they will emit a smell which will in turn, attract the bears.

You should be turning your compost at least every two weeks, if not every time you add organics. Keep your compost somewhat moist -think of a wrung-out sponge. If it's too wet, it will begin to smell and if it's too dry, the material won't decompose.

You can also sprinkle wood ash or lime on your compost to keep odours at bay.

Never add meat, fish, unrinsed egg shells, oils, dairy products, large amounts of fruit or cooked food as these items will attract wildlife long before they've had time to decompose. Cut the greens into small pieces; large pieces take longer to break down.

Use the layering system: layer equal amounts of organics/greens such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds or fresh grass clippings in-between carbon-rich browns such as dried grass clippings, newspapers, fallen leaves or straw. Always cover the greens with the browns.

When placing your compost, position it away from any household entrances - avoid surprise encounters on your way out to work. Find a well-drained and sunny location that will aid in the decomposition process.

It's important to know that once a bear gains access to your compost and receives a food reward, it is very likely to return, so be prepared to pull your compost. Do not attract rodents to your compost pile as these animals attract larger predators such as cougars and coyotes.

The District of Squamish wildlife attractant bylaw states any composting activity is carried out and any composting device or equipment is maintained in such a manner that it is inaccessible to wildlife.

We can compost in Squamish, we just have to be mindful of how we do it. For more information on composting in bear country go to www.bearaware.bc.ca

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