A public forum to discuss living with black bears in the Lowcountry will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18 at the Pleasant Hill Community Center in Georgetown County. Biologists from S.C. Department of Natural Resources will present information about black bears in the coastal areas of South Carolina, offer tips for "bear proofing" property, provide details on what to do during an encounter and answer any questions the public may have.
Additional public forums in surrounding areas will be held in the near future and will be announced by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at appropriate times.
Black bear populations throughout the Southeast are increasing, and coastal bears in particular are expanding their range. In the past, breeding populations of coastal bears have been found in Georgetown and Horry counties, however, this year reports of female black bears with cubs as far south as Berkeley County and as far west as Florence County have been recorded. DNR biologists have estimated more than 200 bears in roughly 300,000 acres of occupied bear habitat in Georgetown, Horry and Marion counties.
"Calls and public inquiries concerning black bear encounters on the coast have more than tripled in the past three years," said Deanna Ruth, DNR wildlife biologist. "Often they involve situations where bears have been fed by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally." The public forums seek to address these public concerns and questions regarding increasing black bear population in the Lowcountry. Five more public forums will be held in the near future, and will be announced by DNR.
As the human population continues to increase and development encroaches on bear habitat, encounters between bears and humans will continue to increase. The mere presence of a black bear does not necessarily represent a problem, according to Ruth. The species are an important part of South Carolina’s fauna, and DNR is committed to ensuring the long-term well being of the black bear, while addressing property damage and safety concerns of residents.