Tips on bear-proofing Lowcountry properties
Numerous bear incidents in the past couple of years in Georgetown and Horry counties, notably the raiding of garbage cans and bird feeders searching for food, have prompted wildlife biologists to issue important preventative steps for homes and yards.
Deanna Ruth, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) notes that people living in bear country must learn to dispose of their trash properly, or invest in bear-proof containers. Black bear populations occur in the mountainous regions and upper coastal counties of South Carolina. Bears become more active during the fall months and are in search of berries, grubs, and other vegetation that is an essential part of their diet.
According to Ruth, "When looking for food, bears have been observed during spring wandering through residential neighborhoods. Often, homeowners may have food on their property that entices bears, such as sunflower seeds, corn, garbage, and pet food. We advise taking bird feeders down and keeping household trash in secure areas to discourage any wandering bears from staying and foraging."
In addition to preventative steps DNR has to offer for bear-proofing property, Ruth notes it's important to remember that, "Black bears are an invaluable part of our state's natural heritage. As more people are moving into bear country, it is important that people understand this animal's place in our environment, while taking necessary steps to keeping their homes and properties safe." Ruth says that "Unfortunately, bears are viewed as dangerous animals, and hopefully, people will realize as they move into their habitat, it is necessary to learn to coexist with this magnificent forest animal."
DNR points out that removing bears is not the preferred solution for many reasons. First, removal of the animal does not address the problem. If the problem remains, inevitably other bears will move into the same areas to take advantage of the food source. Second, trapping a wild animal, such as a bear, puts both the animal and people at risk of an injury, particularly in residential areas. Third, most people prefer bears to remain a viable species in SC, but human attitudes towards these animals and certain habits, such as garbage disposal, should change. Lastly, DNR biologists note that there are no longer areas that are sufficiently remote to ensure that a relocated bear would not encounter other residences.
A homeowner's guide to living with bears was recently published by DNR, offering handy tips for bear-proofing property. To obtain a guide, go online or visit the nearest DNR office. Other preventative steps to abide by include: