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Hunters kill record number of bears in SC as rules are eased. Not everyone likes it.

Sammy Fretwell, The State on

Published in Outdoors

South Carolina hunters killed a record number of black bears during the recently completed fall hunting season, reflecting an overall rise in bears harvested for sport in the Palmetto State during the past five years.

Animal welfare supporters say they are worried about the trend because bear hunting is a cruel activity that threatens populations of the big animals. One recent scientific study indicates hunting has affected bear populations in parts of the southeast.

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But state wildlife officials say South Carolina appears to have enough black bears to sustain the increased harvests.

Records show that hunters harvested 131 bears in the state’s mountain counties and 38 bears in coastal counties during the late October hunting season. South Carolina has never recorded that many bear kills in either area, according to the state wildlife department.

The 131 bears killed in mountain counties this year marks the fifth straight season in which hunters have harvested more than 100 bears in that part of South Carolina, records kept by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources show.

 

Until the past five seasons, hunters had only once killed more than 100 bears during a single year in the state’s mountain counties since 1970, the first year records were kept. The only other year with more than 100 bear kills was 2013, which held the previous record of 127 taken by hunters.

An abundance of food, expanded hunting territories and an increasing number of hunters may account for the recent trends in mountain counties, a stronghold for black bears in South Carolina. Looser hunting rules on the coast might also have contributed to the rise in bears killed there, state officials said.

The number of people registered to hunt bears with dogs in the mountains has gone up from fewer than 1,000 in 2015 to more than 1,300 this year, DNR records show.

South Carolina law allows hunters to use dogs to track bears for one week of the two-week hunting season in the mountains of Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties. Using dogs to hunt bears is not allowed the other week in the mountains or in the handful of areas outside the mountains with limited bear-hunting seasons.

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