Can I safely compost biodegradable garbage on my cottage property and not attract bears?
Yes. Assuming you compost appropriate materials (for example, vegetables, breads and grains, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg and nut shells, yard trimmings, leaves) and don’t include any meat, seafood, fats, oils, bones, dairy, diapers, or pet wastes. What about fruit, you ask? It’s good fodder for the pile, but when rotting, it smells strong and sweet. So, for bear-proof compost, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources recommends that you avoid adding it.
To help speed decomposition and reduce any smells, turn the pile frequently, bury fresh food scraps in the pile, instead of tossing them on top, and add extra layers of soil. A weird stench indicates that there’s a less-than-ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. For example, a rotten egg stink may mean that there’s not enough air or too much moisture; an ammonia smell may mean that there’s too much nitrogen. In both cases, incorporate coarse carbon-rich items, such as sawdust or leaves, into the pile.
Even if your compost doesn’t attract bears, don’t be surprised if it attracts other wildlife, especially raccoons and skunks. They’re not as scary…but they’re just as annoying.