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Bears find fine dining in Cumberland County compost bins this summer

Suzanne Adshead, wildlife technician with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Oxford office, recently told county council that their office is getting many more calls this summer about bears rummaging in green bins near cottages, especially in Tidnish.
Suzanne Adshead, wildlife technician with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Oxford office, recently told county council that their office is getting many more calls this summer about bears rummaging in green bins near cottages, especially in Tidnish. - Dave Mathieson

UPPER NAPPAN, N.S. – Although we're midway through the summer, bears are still attacking compost bins in search of food.

“We get the bears in the spring and everybody calls saying they’re in their green bins and bird feed, then come the first of July the bears are gone,” said Suzanne Adshead, wildlife technician with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Oxford office, during a recent presentation to county councilors during one of their bi-weekly meetings.

She says this year is much different, because bears, late in the summer, are still rummaging through the green bins.

“The only thing I can figure is that the frost that killed so much blueberry crops also did a lot of damage in the woods to what the bears would normally eat around the first of July,” said Adshead. “That food’s not there now and we’re still seeing them and still getting calls all the time.”
Adshead said bear populations are growing throughout Cumberland County, and says many of the calls she gets from people are coming from the North Shore where frost wasn’t a factor.

“Out along the shore we have apple orchards and vineyards that weren’t hit by frost, so we’re seeing a really high number of bears out there,” said Adshead. “Bears are smart and know where the food is, and they also realize that food is wherever we are, so we have bears all around us.”

She says many calls are coming from rental cottages in Tidnish.

“A lot of those places are rentals. They don’t know how we recycle. They have lobster and mussels and put it in the green bin.”

She said bears are attracted to compost bins, not because of the compost, but because of maggots found in the compost.

“Bears are actually after the maggots, they’re not after the compost itself,” she said. “People have called and said the bears have not touched the compost but they’re picking all those maggots out.”

She says it’s important to clean out compost bins.

“What we recommend with the green bins is, once they’re empty, that they get washed with hot, soapy water, and then you put Javex in them.

Many people freeze their compost, and Adshead says ‘it’s amazing how good it works.’

“You scrape your plate and put it into the freezer, and the night before garbage pick-up you put it in the bin and it gets picked up. It doesn’t have time to rot, it doesn’t have time for flies to get in it, so the maggots won’t form.”

Another solution might be to increase green bin disposal from once every two weeks to once every week. Council discussed the option and said it would be very expensive but added that it’s something they could look into.

Adshead says bear populations are very high because they have no natural predators.

“There is nothing putting any pressure on the bear population. There’s no natural predators, besides us and our cars, which have gotten quite a few of them this year.”

New Brunswick along with a few other Canadian provinces, have two hunting seasons, the spring and fall, while Nova Scotia has a fall bear hunting season.

“I believe a spring bear hunt might put a little pressure on the bears,” said Adshead.

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