Be bear wise: Keep them out of your yard by reducing their exposure to food sources

Black bear


With spring, Buncombe County bears get on the move. Normally shy, they’re hungry and they have baby bears to feed.

Problem bears are rare in the City of Asheville. But the City is getting calls about some bears getting into trash cans.

More than a third of the calls N.C. Wildlife Resources get about bears statewide come from Buncombe County, mainly because we are moving into their habitat. Their goal is to educate folks on how to live with bears, because the bears aren’t going away.

It’s not an impossible situation. You can help deter the bears.


Bear-smart practices

  • Do not feed the bears! The well-known sign is posted in Yellowstone National Park. But it also applies right here in Western North Carolina. Yet you may not even realize you are doing it.
  • Do not place trash/recycling out the night before collection. By City ordinance, carts should be placed at the curb *on the day of pick up* and removed the same day. So roll that trashcan into your garage, if you have one. Put it outside only on the morning of your collection day.
  • Bird feeders and unattended outdoor trashcans are the biggest culprits. People who intentionally leave out corn or birdseed for bears do the animals and their neighbors a disservice. Unfortunately, feeding bears can cause them to lose their fear of humans and become pests.
  • Bears can smell food from miles away. Putting food scraps in the freezer and then placing them in the garbage can on day of pick up (while still frozen) can reduce bear curiosity.
  • Pet food can be another source of attraction. Feed Fido or Kitty inside if your property is subject to the occasional wandering bear.


What about bear-resistant trashcans?

While there is no such thing as a “bear-proof” trashcan, there are “bear-resistant” models, according to Asheville Solid Waste Manager Jes Foster.


“A bear-resistant can makes it more difficult or time-consuming for a bear to get what it wants,” she explained. “However, if a bear grows tired of trying to get into a resistant can, it will just move to the next food source that is not resistant, be that another trash can, recycling bin, birdfeeder or grill. The best course of action is to follow best practices for co-existing with bears and minimize food in the trash containers.”


While the City of Asheville has not offered bear-resistant cans in the past, City staff are working with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to discuss testing some carts and cart mechanisms that could reduce bear-related issues.


“The Sanitation Department hopes to partner with them on a BearWise Community pilot project in the future,” said Foster.


For more tips on how to live responsibly with bears in your neighborhood, visit