Outdoor PestsWildlife

How To Keep Bears Out of Your Dumpster

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Bears are majestic creatures, but they can become a nuisance when they start rummaging through your dumpster. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various methods to keep bears out of your dumpster, common mistakes homeowners make that attract bears, and some legal and ethical considerations to be aware of.


To keep bears out of your dumpster, use bear-resistant trash containers, store trash cans in a secure area until pick-up day, schedule more frequent garbage pickups, and clean your trash cans regularly. You can also use trash can enclosures or caddies, install electric fencing, and use strong disinfectants as repellents. Avoid common mistakes like improperly stored garbage, putting out garbage the night before collection, and leaving pet food outdoors.

Why Bears are Attracted to Your Dumpster

Bears have an incredibly strong sense of smell, which can lead them straight to your trash. Common attractants include unsecured garbage, birdseed, pet food, vegetable gardens, ripe and fallen fruit, compost piles with food scraps, livestock feed, barbecue grills, and beehives.

Effective Ways to Keep Bears Away from Your Dumpster

Bear-resistant Trash Containers

One of the most effective ways to keep bears away from your dumpster is to use bear-resistant trash containers. These containers are specifically designed to withstand a determined bear. They are typically made of heavy-duty steel, such as 12 or 14-gauge steel, and are certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). Bear-resistant dumpsters can be found from manufacturers like Bearicuda, Toter, and ConFab.

Storing Trash Cans in a Secure Area

Keep your trash cans in a garage, basement, or other secure areas until trash pick-up day. This helps reduce the odors that attract bears in the first place.

Scheduling More Frequent Garbage Pickups

The longer your trash sits, the more likely it is to attract bears. By scheduling more frequent garbage pickups, you can reduce the chances of a bear finding your dumpster.

Using Trash Can Enclosures or Caddies

These are strong metal or wooden sheds that secure your trash cans from wildlife. They can hold your garbage until it is ready for pickup.

Installing Electric Fencing

Electric fencing can deter bears from approaching dumpsters, gardens, compost piles, or other potential food sources.

Using Repellents

Although there are no repellents specifically registered for use on bears, sprinkling ammonia or other strong disinfectants on garbage can mask the odor of food.

Cleaning Your Trash Cans Regularly

Regularly cleaning your trash cans can help reduce the odors that attract bears.

Common Mistakes That Attract Bears

Avoid these common mistakes to prevent attracting bears to your dumpsters:

  1. Improperly stored garbage: Bears are attracted to the smell of garbage, so storing it in non-bear-resistant containers or leaving it outside can attract bears.
  2. Putting out garbage the night before collection: Bears are more active at night, so putting out garbage the night before collection increases the chances of attracting bears.
  3. Not cleaning garbage containers: Failing to wash garbage containers frequently with a disinfectant solution can lead to the buildup of odors that attract bears.
  4. Leaving pet food outdoors: Bears are attracted to pet food, so feeding pets outdoors or leaving pet food outside can attract bears.
  5. Using non-bear-resistant bird and wildlife feeders: Bears are attracted to birdseed and other wildlife feed, so using non-bear-resistant feeders can attract bears.
  6. Not securing coolers: Bears are attracted to the smell of food in coolers, so not securing coolers in a bear-resistant manner can attract bears.
  7. Not cleaning BBQs and grills: The smell of food on BBQs and grills can attract bears, so not cleaning them thoroughly after each use can attract bears.
  8. Leaving food scraps and recyclables unsecured: Food scraps and recyclables with food residue can attract bears, so not securing them properly can lead to bear attraction.

What to Do if You Find a Bear Rummaging Through Your Dumpster

If a bear is rummaging through your dumpster, it’s important to stay calm. Do not approach the bear or try to scare it away. Instead, observe from a safe distance and speak calmly and firmly. Slowly back away without making any sudden movements. If the bear approaches you, make yourself look bigger by raising your arms and standing on your tiptoes.

After the bear leaves, remove any potential attractants from your property, such as garbage, birdseed, or pet food. Consider investing in bear-resistant trash containers or enclosures to prevent future incidents.

Remember, it is illegal and unethical to intentionally feed bears in most areas. This not only endangers people and property, but it can also result in the bear being euthanized. Always treat bears with respect and take steps to ensure that your property is not an attractant for them.

By following these guidelines, you can keep bears out of your dumpster and protect both the bears and your community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if a bear becomes aggressive?

If a bear becomes aggressive, do not try to fight back. Instead, use bear spray if you have it. If the bear attacks, protect your chest and abdomen by falling to the ground and playing dead. If the bear continues to attack, fight back by hitting the bear in the face, eyes, and nose.

Can I use a regular trash can instead of a bear-resistant one?

While it’s not illegal to use a regular trash can, it’s not recommended. Bears have a strong sense of smell and can easily break into regular trash cans. Bear-resistant trash cans are specifically designed to prevent bears from accessing the contents, which can help keep bears away from your property.

How does electric fencing work to deter bears?

Electric fencing works by delivering a short, sharp shock when the bear touches it, which can deter the bear from trying to access the area protected by the fence. The shock is designed to be unpleasant, but not to cause serious harm to the bear.

Are there any other animals that might be attracted to my dumpster?

Yes, other animals like raccoons, skunks, opossums, and rodents may also be attracted to your dumpster. Using a bear-resistant trash can and following the other guidelines in this post can also help deter these other animals.

What should I do if I see a bear near my home but not in my dumpster?

If you see a bear near your home but not in your dumpster, you should still avoid approaching the bear. Instead, observe from a safe distance and speak calmly and firmly. If the bear approaches you, make yourself look bigger by raising your arms and standing on your tiptoes. After the bear leaves, remove any potential attractants from your property. It’s also a good idea to notify your local wildlife agency so they can monitor the bear’s activity.

Are there any specific laws about feeding bears in my area?

Laws about feeding bears vary by location. In many places, it is illegal to intentionally feed bears because it can lead to bears becoming habituated to human food, which can create dangerous situations. Always check with your local wildlife agency for specific regulations in your area.

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