The bear found in South Carolina is known as the black bear (Ursus americanus). It has black or dark brown fur covering its body and a lighter tan or brown snout. There are about 900 known black bears statewide. About 600 of these bears live in the mountainous areas and about 300 live in the coastal areas. Black bears are not as large as brown bears or grizzly bears and males typically weigh about 350 lbs. while females typically weigh 250 lbs. However, the largest black bear ever recorded in SC was 609 lbs. so they can grow quite a bit larger from time to time.
The life expectancy of black bears is around 18 years in the wild. They are able to reproduce starting at around 3 years old and are usually done growing by about 5 years old. These bears are great climbers, have good eyesight and an excellent sense of smell. This sense of smell can lead them to bird feeders, food left outdoors and unfortunately, trash cans. In the wild, the bear’s diet is about 80% plants and vegetation such as berries and nuts and 20% insects and meat. Black bears are typically shy creatures though bear sightings have been on the rise due to habitat loss in SC. Many areas of the state have a boom of new construction that is forcing bears out of their traditional habitats and into neighborhoods where they might be seen as a nuisance.
Black bears are not true hibernators like other bear species. Instead of hibernation, they enter a semi-inactive state called denning. With the warmer and more temperate climate, black bears den for shorter periods and sleep for shorter periods than bears who hibernate. In particularly warm years, the temperatures might not get low enough in some areas of the southeast United States for black bears to den at all, and they remain active all winter long. While this is uncommon, it does happen when winters are particularly warm and mild.
It’s important to keep these bear safety tips in mind no matter where in the state of South Carolina you live:
1. Never leave pet food outdoors
2. Clean and store grills in a garage or shed
3. Secure food, garbage and recycling and store inside a garage or shed or use bear-proof containers
4. Never feed or approach bears
5. Always be bear aware and avoid getting between a mother bear and her cubs
6. Remove bird feeders when bears are actively feeding for winter (typically September through November)
7. Never confront or try to scare a bear away
8. Never run away from a bear. Instead stand tall and raise your arms to appear as big as possible, make loud noises and slowly back away
Black bears are majestic creatures but they can sometimes become a nuisance when they wander into people-inhabited spaces. If you are having trouble with a bear in your area or yard, Pee Dee Wildlife Control can help by removing and relocating the bear to a more appropriate area.