With bears in Asheville backyards, be ‘BearWise’ about managing trash

Image of bear eating out of trashcan



At a glance

This article includes:

  • Tips on how to deter bears.
  • Guidelines if you want to buy your own bear-resistant trash cart.
  • What to do if you encounter a bear.



Baby bears are cute, mama bears can be fierce and both have emerged from their dens hungry.


An increasing number of black bears live and roam around the City of Asheville, according to Colleen Olfenbuttel, Black Bear and Furbearer Biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). She adds that people and bears can safely coexist, with the key being that people need to follow the BearWise Basics. We’ll get into those in a minute but first let’s talk about the bear issue the City of Asheville most often hears about: bears getting into trash carts.


Bears are habitual creatures who learn where they can find easy food sources. Keeping your trash cart out of their reach is strongly recommended. This can be done by keeping your City-issued trash cart in your garage or otherwise secured until the day Sanitation comes for pickup.


Bear-resistant trash carts

People have asked when or whether the City of Asheville may consider providing bear-resistant trash carts. While residents can purchase their own carts if they are compatible with the City’s Sanitation trucks, providing them citywide or even to bear-prone neighborhoods is cost prohibitive at this time.


“We are researching ways to fund bear-resistant cans,” said Sanitation Division Manager Jes Foster.


The NCWRC and North Carolina State University has been conducting an urban-suburban bear study in Asheville for the past five years. Find information about that project on the North Carolina Urban/Suburban Bear Study Facebook page. Phase 2 of the bear study will include identifying neighborhoods for BearWise certification.


For now, if you opt to buy your own bear-resistant trash cart, there are two types available at local hardware and home stores:

  •         One that locks and then the owner unlocks it before trash is collected.
  •         One that unlocks on its own when the action of the Sanitation truck arm lifts it into the air and swings it in an arch for disposal.


A list of carts compatible with the City of Asheville Sanitation system and their prices is listed at this link on the Sanitation webpage.


“If a resident does purchase a bear-resistant can, we do appreciate a call to notify the Sanitation Division,” said Foster. You can email sanitation@ashevillenc.gov or call Customer Service at 828-251-1122.


Be BearWise

Secure food, garbage, and recycling.

  • 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 trash cart into your garage, if you have one. Put it outside only on the morning of your collection day.
  • 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.

Remove bird feeders when bears are active.

  • Birdseed and other grains have a high calorie content, making them very attractive to bears. The best way to avoid conflicts with bears is to remove feeders.
  • 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.

Never leave pet food out.

  • Feed outdoor pets portion sizes that will be completely eaten during each meal and then remove leftover food and food bowl. Securely store these foods so nothing is available to bears. Pet food can be another source of attraction. Feed Fido or Kitty inside if your property is subject to the occasional wandering bear.

Never feed or approach bears.

  • Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people looking for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs!

Clean and store grills.

  • Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.

Alert neighbors to bear activity.

  • See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share information on how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.


If you encounter a bear

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission provides these  “bear wise” tips on what to do if encountering a bear:

  • Do not approach the bear. Quietly move away and leave the area.
  • If you are a safe distance away from the bear, make loud noises, shout, or bang pots and pans together to scare it away.
  • Give the bear a clear escape route.