South Carolina has an estimated 1,000 to 1,600 black bears, found mostly in the mountains but also along the coast west of Myrtle Beach. Many of those bears are believed to move back and forth across the border from Georgia and North Carolina, which also have bear hunting seasons.
Nearly three dozen states have fall bear-hunting seasons, according to the Humane Society of the United States. But not everyone is happy with that.
A group called Bear Defenders is involved in efforts nationally to halt bear hunting in the United States.
“We are on a mission to pioneer a road-map that will lead people through the process of ending bear hunting in their state,’’ the Bear Defenders’ website says.
Many animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society, are particularly concerned about the use of dogs with tracking collars to find bears, which they say is an unfair chase. Sometimes dogs will drive bears into trees, where the animals are shot. In North Carolina, dogs were recently reported chasing bears through developed areas.
Bear parts also are sometimes harvested and sold on the black market. In South Carolina, the DNR has made cases against men who have tried to sell bear parts, although it was not clear what states the parts were harvested in.
“The Humane Society of the United States is opposed to the trophy hunting of black bears,’’ the society’s Wendy Keefover said in an email. “Trophy hunters’ primary motivation is to kill black bears, not for food but for photo opportunities, and to obtain and display bear parts, including, heads, hides, claws and capes — even if the meat is ultimately consumed.’’
Charles Ruth, the big-game coordinator for the DNR, said he believes the state has struck the right balance in allowing a limited black bear harvest for two weeks each year. The DNR says hunting keeps the population in check, and that there are plenty of bears to hunt. The rising number of bear kills in recent years suggests the population is healthy, or even growing, he said.
Bears are known to wander into backyards, looking for food. They also are sometimes hit by cars, particularly in the increasingly developed Myrtle Beach area.
“We get a lot of nuisance complaints about bears (eating) crops, getting into trash cans, bird feeders, etc.,’’ Ruth said. “And understanding that the population is increasing, from a management standpoint, you don’t want too many bears. There is a cost of having bears.’’