In Which We Bear-Proof a Trash Can

Apparently bears love Wedgewood pizza. 

Also, they will do almost anything—and I mean anything—to get it. 

My family and I discovered this while on vacation in Tennessee, celebrating my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Actually, we didn’t discover the whole “they will do anything” part until the very end of our stay…

Our cabin was amazing: five floors (three below ground level) and entirely made of wood. My sisters and I slept on the very bottom floor. During our stay, we got an excellent workout running up and down ninety-seven steps each way. 

In spite of the stairs, our first day was quite relaxing. For dinner, we ate several Wedgewood pizzas and threw the boxes away in the trash can outside. In the morning, my dad discovered that the trashcan had been knocked over and scratched up, and that every last bit of our trash from the previous day was strewn across a large area. Everything shreddable had been thoroughly shredded, and the Wedgewood pizza boxes were mangled almost beyond recognition, complete with teeth marks. Bear teeth marks. 

It took half an hour to clean everything up, and we put a rock or two on top of the trashcan as a discouragement to prying paws. Eventually, we set off to enjoy some horseback riding and forgot about the wildlife incident. 

I had never ridden a horse before without someone leading it, but I shouldn’t have worried. My horse Vegas was an extremely friendly fellow. He managed to stay at a pace just fast enough to keep his place as leader of the group and yet just slow enough to keep me from freaking out. Somehow, all the grown-ups got stuck in the back, while the kids led the way. Everyone succeeded in handling the reins, except for my mom’s brother, Uncle Brian, who was saddled with (no pun intended) a mischievous little horse named, quite fittingly, Diablo. 

Diablo proved to be quite the handful. He decided early that he disliked playing follow-the-leader, preferring to explore the forest instead. Uncle Brian quickly discovered he lacked the horsemanship he had previously thought he possessed. Once Diablo had made up his mind to go investigate one particular clump of questionable-looking greenery, he would not take ‘no’ for an answer. Of course, my sisters and I found it incredibly funny that we were walking along just fine, while Uncle Brian struggled with his horse in vain. Emma, my littlest sister, turned around and called gleefully, “Where are you going, Uncle Brian?” to which he replied with obvious frustration, “I have no idea! Where’s the brake on this thing?”


Pictured above: Diablo, far right


We stayed out for most of that day, doing one thing or another. When we returned home, the discouraging sight of trash strewn all over the front lawn, the driveway, and the porch greeted us. Apparently, rocks are not sufficient to keep bears away. 

That night, the bears struck again. In the morning, our red van was covered in dirty paw prints—mostly around the door handles. 

The bear incidents repeated themselves over and over during our week at the cabin. Every morning, we picked up trash scattered everywhere. It didn’t take long for us to come up with some ingenious ways of bear-proofing our trashcan—the best one involved knotting plastic bags around and around the handles, basically tying the lid on. That method failed too. It would seem that once those bears got a whiff of our leftover food, they would never give up. 

I’m sorry to say that the Great Bear Confrontation came after my own family had left, and only our grandparents and aunt were still staying at the cabin. As they were packing their car, ready to head home, they brought all the trash bags into the cabin. Grandpa left the door wide open so he could carry luggage out, and, while all three of them were standing by the car, the bears arrived.

My aunt still has the video she took from inside the van, watching a mama bear and three almost-grown cubs approach. They trundled around, knocked over the empty trashcan, sniffed around a bit—and then started for the cabin door…which was wide open. 

As the bears climbed the porch steps, about to overrun the cabin, someone had the brilliant idea to honk the car horn. The noise startled the bears. They bumbled away and disappeared into the trees. Thus ended the Tennessee vacation!


  1. Great job once again! Have you ever had a vacation without something like this happening?

  2. This was really good! I enjoyed this article a lot. Great job on this!

  3. Great job!

  4. This was superbly written. Very intriguing.

  5. Lol this is great! Keep up the good work!

  6. I live in Wears Valley and 5 min away from the Smoky Mountain National Park, so WE GET BEARS A TON. (and thats a understatement) Where I live, we electrified the trashcans and literally everything bears like bc they are there so much!

  7. You ELECTRAFIED a TRASH CAN????? Wow!