HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - As construction on developments and roadways continues to increase in Horry County, more black bears are coming out of the woods and into contact with people.
A majority of homes in places like Carolina Forest back up to some type of forest or wooded area, and as a result, bears are coming right into their backyards.
While there have been no reports of bear attacks, for some it’s a little too close for comfort.
“They frighten some of the neighbors because they have pets and children, but the bears aren’t interested in the children or small pets,” said Bo Ives.
Ives moved to Carolina Forest 16 years ago and was frequently visited by black bears when he first moved into his home, which backs up to the woods.
“It is a wild animal, but respect that they need a place to forage and if you don’t disturb them they won’t disturb you,” said Ives.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said the increase is mostly due to habitat loss.
“All of these developments that are occurring are pushing these bears out of where they have been for quite some time,” said Kayla Brantley, a wildlife biologist with SCDNR.
Bernie Pettijohn has also dealt with black bear sightings in Carolina Forest after the bears found food in her bird feeder.
“Our intention was not to feed the bears, our intention was to have wild birds and fox squirrels,” said Pettijohn.
When the bears came they were shocked but said it was amazing to see how close they came to the house.
In 2011 a coastal bear hunt lottery was put in place, allowing ten hunters in each county to hunt the bears. However, changes had been made in recent years to the program.
“We still have the coastal bear season in place except it has a quota now instead of being a lottery hunt,” said Kayla Brantley.
Coastal residents are now asked to take precautions this summer by putting away birdfeeders, cleaning your grill and keep your garbage out of the bears reach. It’s something Ives has seen in recent weeks impacting neighbors.
“He did come back here the following night because the garbage was open and also found trash behind another house,” said Ives.
As for Pettijohn, once they removed the bird feeders the bears have yet to return.
“We put the bird feeders away and the bears disappear,” said Pettijohn.
Coastal residents in “bear country” may have to adapt to the same tactics that their Upstate counterparts have been employing for years.
- Bird feed and feeders: If you are aware of a bear being in your area, go ahead and remove your bird feeder for at least two weeks; the bear will move on quickly.
- No garbage: Keep garbage in tightly shut or bear-proof trash cans; garbage left in the open, in an open dumpster, or in the back of a truck is an open invitation for a bear.
- Pet food storage: Store pet food properly if kept outside; put pet food in airtight storage containers and don't leave leftover food out in the open.
- Clean grills: Keep charcoal and gas grills covered and clean to keep food odors from attracting bears.
- Beehives: If you're going to have beehives in bear territory, protect your investment with an electric, bear-proof fence.
- No feeding: A bear that becomes accustomed to having food provided is an accident waiting to happen; don't feed a bear the first time and it will likely leave the area soon.
It is not necessary to call an SCDNR office with every sighting of a bear, but in an emergency situation, residents can always reach the SCDNR dispatch office at 1-800-922-5431 (the Operation Game Thief hotline), or dial 911 to reach first responders in their local area. Road-killed bears should be reported by calling the OGT line.