A record number of black bears were harvested during the two-week bear-hunting season in the three South Carolina mountain counties, and the state’s chief black bear biologist said this was expected since bear are increasing both their numbers and their range.
Fifty-eight black bears were harvested during the 2007 bear season, held the last two weeks of October in Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties. This is the highest number of bear ever harvested during the two-week season, which is divided into one week of still-hunting and one week of hunting with dogs. The previous record of 55 bears harvested was set in 2003.
The highest number of bears harvested during the 2007 season was in Oconee County with 23, followed by Pickens County with 20 and Greenville County with 15.
"The harvest follows the pattern we have been seeing for years and follows all of our indicators," said Skip Still, black bear biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources based in Clemson. "We have been telling folks that the black bear population in the mountains and piedmont is expanding both in number and range and all indications—surveys, human/bear interactions, sightings, road kills—confirm those statements. The only thing surprising about the harvest is that we had a poor mast year while other surrounding states did not. Every bear that I saw harvested this year was in good health and had a lot of fat reserves. Eight bear were over 400 pounds with the heaviest weighing 530 pounds."
Black bear is the only bear species in South Carolina. A male black bear’s territory may have a radius of 10 miles, while a female black bear’s territory has a radius of 4 to 5 miles. About 80 percent of a black bear’s diet is plant matter such as berries and nuts, while the other 20 percent is made up of insects and meat. Adult black bears typically weight 180 to 350 pounds. The largest male bear on record in South Carolina weighed 594 pounds.
The population of black bears in Game Zone 1, which consists of the northern portions of Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties, is about 900 bear. Bears have expanded into Game Zone 2, made up of Anderson, Abbeville, Laurens, Newberry, Greenwood, McCormick, Saluda and Edgefield counties and the southern portions of Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties. Bear sightings have been reported in every Upstate county during the past 10 years.
DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.