With a new food-scrap ban in effect, reports of bears and other wildlife by homeowners are on the rise in Vermont.
Due to Vermont’s unusual weather patterns, bears have been desperate to find food. Biologist and Black Bear Project leader Forrest Hammond said game wardens have responded to 57 calls this season, “which is almost as many as we had in all of last year.”
Hammond said failing to compost safely can cause bears to return and sometimes break into homes. The secret, he said, is to make sure there is no odor. That means no meat, no grease and no bones.
“If they are so conditioned to getting human foods, they’ll try to go to the source and break into houses,” he said.
Cat Buxton, founder of Grow More, Waste Less, Cat Buxton, said one family attracted a few furry visitors. “It was a big, stinky, attractive, wonderful delicious looking thing for bears and so we had a mama bear and her two yearlings come by,” she said.
“They smashed over buckets, they ate a bunch of stuff, they went in and found some trash and pulled that all apart. They haven’t been back since, but now that they’ve had a taste it’s a challenge.”
Mitch True, an employee at Guy’s Farm & Yard in Williston, demonstrated how to compost safely and effectively.
His store has a sealed barrel-like bin supported by two planks of wood, allowing it to swing and rotate. True explains the swinging feature helps eliminate odor, quickens decomposition, and deters hungry stragglers.
“I’m hesitant to say anything is bear-proof, but it’s certainly bear-frustrating,” said True as he rotated the bin and tightened the lid.
Buxton teaches students how to compost by helping incorporate it into school curriculums. She also creates educational, composting videos on Youtube, urging residents to do their part and helping them make the transition to the new environmental practice.
“Composting doesn’t have to be intimidating,” she said.