South Carolina Hunters Shatter State Record for Black Bear Kills

by Craig Garrett
Grin & Bear It - stock photo

For the second year in a row, South Carolina sportsmen have broken the record for black bears killed during the state’s bear hunting season. According to data from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, hunters killed 174 bears in 2022, which surpasses last year’s state record of 169 bears harvested. Many were killed in the mountains of Pickens, Oconee, and Greenville counties, The State reports.

Tammy Waldrop, a DNR biologist, is responsible for monitoring bear hunting in the mountains. “It was a big season for the bear harvest,’’ Waldrop said. The DNR has seen a continuous increase in the number of hunters registering to kill bears. However, Waldrop believes this may be due to where acorns, which bears feed on, are located. The white oak trees dropped a large number of acorns, which black bears prefer over nuts from red oaks. However, this occurred only in certain areas. As a result, the bears had to move about more and congregate in some areas.

“It gave more opportunity for these bear hunters to encounter them,’’ Waldrop explained. In Oconee County, a hunter shot and killed the largest bear on record during the season when dogs are allowed to be used in order to stalk bears. The state’s previous record was held by a Bear weighing 609 pounds. In October, for two weeks straight, hunters in the mountains are allowed to use dogs with tracking collars. Obviously, this makes the hunt much easier.

Bear hunting is essential to keep the population healthy, according to experts

Bear-hunting is permitted in only a few counties of South Carolina for several reasons. Managers see it as a way to stabilize the bear population in the state, which is constantly growing. Additionally, the hunts are part of the cultural heritage that has been passed down through multiple generations among hunters. Finally, these hunts are only allowed by law in mountain counties and on the northern coast near Myrtle Beach.

Animal rights advocates have said for years that allowing hunters to shoot black bears in South Carolina is needless. They believe that it might eventually endanger bear populations. It’s been reported there are 1,000 to 1,600 black bears living in SC; most of them inhabit the mountains but some also live along the coast near Myrtle Beach. A good portion of these animals cross over the borders from Georgia and North Carolina frequently- both states permit bear hunting seasons.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, fall bear-hunting seasons are occurring in nearly three dozen states. However, not all individuals agree with these pursuits as a group called Bear Defenders is campaigning to end bear hunting altogether.

Charles Ruth, the big-game coordinator for the DNR, said he believes the state has found a happy medium in allowing a limited black bear harvest for two weeks each year. According to the DNR, hunting serves to keep the bear population in check. This is done by kills, which have increased in recent years- meaning that not only is the population healthy, but it might even be growing. Bears, who are often looking for food, sometimes wander into people’s backyards. They also get hit by cars more frequently in areas like Myrtle Beach which are growing and developing rapidly.