Bear-Proofing Your Landscape

Keeping Away Black bears

Photo by Miguel B on Flickr.

As anyone who lives in Roanoke Virginia now knows, bears do not always keep to themselves. Yes, sometimes they leave their forest dwellings to set up camp near trash cans, swimming pools, or even parking garages. Most people don’t much enjoy having bears rummaging around their property, but rest assured—they look more intimidating than they actually are. Black bears—the kind we see here in Southwest Virginia—are generally docile and shy. They keep to themselves, but, when left to roam however they see fit, they can wreak havoc on an unsuspecting landscape. The best way to prevent against bear damage is to bear-proof your yard and neighborhood. If you notice a bear hanging around human habitats, it’s most likely because food or some other kind of resource is enticing him there. A bear that is given access to free food once will likely come back for more, potentially resulting in the bear eventually losing its innate fear of humans. Bears who do not fear people may act brashly in human environments (they may, for example, decide to set up shop in a busy parking garage or steal food from restaurant trashcans). Luckily, bear-proofing is fairly simple. Here are some tips:

Cover Trash Cans

To bears, open trash cans are like abandoned pots of gold. Simple, loose lids can easily be pushed off by a hungry pair of bear paws. It’s best to use trash cans with sturdier, attached covers, or a specialty trash can designed to stop scavengers like raccoons and bears. Alternatively, some homeowners chose to lock their trash cans up in a shed or garage overnight to detract animal attention. However you chose to do it, getting trash off the street is integral to preventing bear invasions.

Watch Your Bird Feeders

As it turns out, birdfeeders look delicious to more than just birds. Black bears have been known to enjoy bird feed as well. If you’re planning on installing bird feeders this summer, watch where you place them—they could attract unwanted attention. If bears commonly pass through your area, you may want to consider foregoing birdfeeders altogether.

Enclose Compost Piles

An open compost pile is a treat unlike any other to curious bears. They will gladly trample through a fence or dig a hole in your yard to enjoy it. The best way to prevent this is by covering your compost pile with a sturdy, lidded container. Considering how pungent compost can become in the summer months, your neighbors will likely thank you for this as well.

Keep Grills Clean

When eating and cooking outside, people leave food scraps they don’t necessarily think about. For instance, meet dripping from grills can attract a plethora of animals and insects, including hungry bears. Clean out your grill regularly (generally, clean after every use) and be careful not to leave food scraps unattended outside. Scent travels far in the heat. You never know exactly what kind of critters you’ll attract.


Remember, if you see a bear, don’t panic. Keep your distance and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Crowded bears can become anxious and volatile. Move slowly and deliberately, find shelter, and call a professional.


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