Don’t, or do, feed the bears

Dear Editor,

Vermont, in case anybody hasn’t noticed, this year enacted the most definite environmental statement in the nation, decreeing that henceforth food scraps are no longer to be discarded with other refuse in what used to be called “dumps,” now known as “recycling centers” or “transfer stations.” This law was enacted after spirited debate in the Legislature.

This statute seems to have several intended benefits: reducing the volume of garbage, limiting rat, bird, and other similar scavenging; encouraging citizen mulch piles.

I’ve been wondering what apartment dwellers, especially in crowded cities, are to do with their food waste. Even folks living in closely gathered single-family homes might have problems.

We, personally, have no difficulty. We do what we’ve done for a couple of decades.Our small lot adjoins a considerable State Forest, so our method is to simply gather truly biodegradable material – meat bones and fat, egg shells, coffee grounds, veggie leavings –and every couple of days carry it out to a small open meadow out back and leave it in a heap on the ground. We’ve noticed that the pile does not grow out of control, but seems to grow, if at all, in very small increments. We note that a lot of choice items – steak bones, leftover meat, overripe fruit and vegetables – are among the first to vanish. If we go away for a time, we find that the aggregation seems to be reduced to almost nothing.

This method supplements Mother Nature’s own distribution of goodies on our parcel. A couple of old, but productive, apple trees, a young pear tree, an old but fecund sickle pear tree, leave their production around for the wild livestock, in amounts that defy our interest in harvesting them. By spring, they too are gone.

We have no interest in which of our forest friends plunder our leavings, and we rarely hear growls or snarls from the disposal point, indicating disputes over dining arrangements.

But the law is in a state of contradiction.

Our activities might not meet with approval of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

It seems that Vermont F&W looks askance at feeding bears. The regulations are quite clear to the point of repetition: “Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally,” and “It is illegal to feed bears, even when not hunting for them,” and “It is your [our] responsibility to avoid attracting bears. Bears are wild animals that belong in their natural habitat – the forest.”

I have no fear whatever of Bruin here in Vermont. In many years of hundreds of walks along miles of deserted back roads I have seen a bear exactly twice, in the distance crossing the road for a fleeting moment before disappearing. I have no conclusive evidence that any bear has visited our abandoned fruit or our food scrap dump. But it would seem to me unlikely that none ever has.

And if they have, or ever do, Bon Appétit.

At least, until F&W catch up with us.


Bruce Graham

Chester, Vt.

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