Learn about living with bears; creating bear smart communities; recreating in bear country; bear safety at work; and managing bears (for wildlife officials).

Managing Waste & Attractants

bears accessing waste & attractants at work sites in bear country

Rule #1: Don’t attract bears

The key to creating a Bear Smart workplace is to eliminate the food and waste that lures bears in. Experience has shown that it is much easier to keep human food sources away from a wild bear than it is to teach a bear that has already been rewarded by human food/waste to stay away from that easy, high calorie source. That is not to say that a bear will never pass through a “clean” workplace as they may be there for other reasons e.g. a young bear or a mother with small cubs make seek refuge in peopled areas where they can hide from more dominant bears. The only thing that will ultimately keep a bear out of a work site is a well-maintained electric fence.

Bears may defend food and garbage and workers that stumble upon the situation and get too close may be injured in the process. Securing attractants is the single best way to keep workers safe, prevent property damage, and avoid the unnecessary killing of bears.

Following a few bear smart guidelines will greatly reduce the chance of attracting bears and encouraging conflicts in and around your workplace.


Bears love garbage. As distasteful as it may seem to humans, our garbage makes it easy for bears to get the calories and nourishment they need without expending much energy. Consuming large quantities of digestible food allows bears to store large amounts of fat to survive the denning period. Since dumps, compost piles and other human garbage sources contain concentrated sources of calorie-rich foods, they are extremely attractive to bears, especially in the fall.

The most important way to minimize human-bear conflicts is to keep garbage away from bears. Unsecured landfills, transfer stations, garbage storage areas, and food storage/preparation areas attract bears like bees to flowers. Once a bear gets a taste of human garbage they will return regularly in search of food.

Consider using portable electric fencing to secure the entire facility or worksite. If that is impractical, surround landfills, transfer stations, garbage storage areas, and food storage/preparation areas with permanent electric fencing.

Bear-proof containers are a cost-effective way to responsibly store garbage and other bear attractants at a work site. Several models are available to meet your needs. If garbage cannot be stored indoors, permanent trash can enclosures are an effective way to keep bears out of your garbage until it can be properly disposed of. Click here to learn more.


Lunches, drinks and snacks will also lure hungry bears closer. If your food can not be stored in a metal storage locker at your work site, it’s best to use your own portable, bear-resistant food canister or odour proof barrier bags. Click here for more information.


damage caused by a bear who entered a vehicle to access foodBears can easily pry open vehicle windows and doors— even trunks  — to access food inside. Don’t leave food, food packaging (like coffee cups or pop cans), coolers or any odorous item in your vehicle or in the back of a pick-up truck.

Keep your vehicle locked at all times with the windows rolled up. Watch this video to see how easy it is for a bear to get into a vehicle. Once inside, bears can cause extensive damage, just looking for food or investigating spills. An interesting report from Yosemite shows that park bears prefer breaking into minivans over other vehicles, perhaps because minivans are often used by families with small children and are therefor susceptible to spills and crumbs.


Some supplies used at work sites can be very attractive to bears, particularly petroleum products, biodiesel and other vegetable-based fuels and lubricants. Store all such products in sealed and locked containers when not in immediate use (in compliance with the safety regulations that apply to your area).


Any work camp in bear country should be surrounded by electric fence, especially if there are sleeping quarters and cooking facilities.