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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

Oct. 19, 2011

DNR offers guidelines for dealing with bears

Bears are on the move again trying to pack on pounds before cold weather, and here are a few guidelines on how state residents can avoid misadventures with these usually harmless, but curious mammals.

The key to coexisting with bears is to understand and respect them. Black bears are usually shy, evasive and non-aggressive toward people. There has never been a human fatality or even an attack attributed to a black bear in South Carolina.

Now is the time of year when the bears' movements make them more visible to the public. Food is scarce during the fall and winter months and bears are actively searching for food sources in order to gain weight for the winter.

The mere presence of a black bear does not necessarily represent a problem. Most are just passing through, but if there is an easy meal to be found, they will take advantage of it. The key is to not give them a reason to stay in the area. Store pet food indoors and keep garbage securely contained. If your neighborhood has open dumpsters, encourage managers to install locking lids.

"If you feed a bear, either on purpose or accidentally, that's when they begin to hang around," says Deanna Ruth, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) coastal black bear specialist. "A wild bear is very wary of man and usually no threat at all, but a bear that has been fed can lose that natural fear." It is unlawful to feed bears in South Carolina, and violators can be prosecuted.

This increased fall movement, associated with searching for food sources, can be detrimental to bears. Some bears fall victim to highway collisions, particularly as more roads are built and more cars utilize existing roads. Remember that it is illegal to possess or remove any part of a bear so do not attempt to pick up a dead bear.

"Just use common sense if you encounter a bear," Ruth said. "If you move away slowly and make it aware of your presence with a calm, assertive voice, it will likely run for the nearest woods." Do not run from a bear or climb a tree. Make yourself look as big as possible and make as much noise as possible.

DNR offers these common sense suggestions to cope with bears:

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