The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is considering allowing bear hunting along the coast. Nearly 50 people, mostly from Horry and Georgetown Counties came out to a public hearing on a proposed bear season in those areas.
The proposed season would last from December 1st-15th, and would allow for 10 tags per county to be sold to hunters. Archery tags would be included, as well as gun tags, but DNR is still discussing gun restrictions. The dates are a week off from North Carolina's bear season.
DNR says the animals are being hunted for the bear meat and skin. It's illegal to sell any bear organ in the state.
DNR doesn't have exact numbers of bears in the area, but according to data from a DNR study from 2008-210, more than 70 bears were counted in two wildlife areas in Horry and Georgetown Counties.
"The study was not to see if we needed to hunt, but if we could have a hunting season," DNR Wildlife Biologist Deena Ruth said.
The Coastal Conservation League was among those at the meeting against the proposed season.
"This study is used as an excuse to have a bear hunt," Nancy Cave, the North Coast office director for the Coastal Conservation League said.
Cave said there need to be an expanded study across the coastal plain. She says it should also include a sanctuary or protective corridors where bear hunting would be illegal even during a season.
Cave worries hunting will wipe out the population.
"We're jumping into this without fully knowing the complication," she said.
Wildlife Action, Inc. is pro-hunting group. They were also against a season this year.
"We want to see more data," Frank Oliver with Wildlife Action said.
To date, there are no bear attacks on record in South Carolina.
The South Carolina General Assembly gave DNR authority to open bear season if it was sustainable with the exception of where bear season is already legal in the upstate, according to state statute. That season has existed since 1959 and runs the third and fourth week of October.
You can find information about thebear population here.
DNR is accepting public comment until September 9th. You can send an email to Amanda Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your opinion.
The DNR Board of Directors will vote on the season September 16th. The seven member board includes one representative from each congressional district and one member serving at large. When asked from the audience how many on the DNR board hunt, a DNR officer said he knew six out of the seven hunt in some extent.