Six captive bears rescued in South Carolina

      Six bears that were part of illegal activities like bear baying/baiting and illegal hunting were voluntarily turned over to the the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Monday and are now living at a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado.

      Three of the bears came from Spartanburg County and three from Greenville County. The bears range in age from 7 to 23 years.

      "These bears will be as close to living in the wild as possible," said Pat Craig, Director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary. "We have them in small enclosures now, but in a few days they will be released into a 10-acre habitat that is very much a natural environment, where bears could even hibernate during the winter. We understand it was a pretty bad situation these bears were in, but as far as captive facilities, this is the best one in the world, and they will live in a really nice habitat."

      The removal of the six captive bears was the result of a four-year-long undercover investigation by DNR law enforcement into bear baying/baiting in South Carolina, according to a news release issued Friday.

      DNR arrested 12 people over the past few weeks in connection with the illegal activity.

      "A long term investigation, such as this, requires the highest commitment and dedication for the thousands of hours to work out the details of such a complex case," said Col. Chisolm Frampton, DNR law enforcement director. "DNR law enforcement officers have done an outstanding job pursuing and prosecuting these criminal cases."

      DNR does not not issue permits for bear baying/baiting and does not consider the possession of black bears by individuals to be biologically sound, safe for the local community, or in the best long-term interest of the wild black bear resource, according to the news release.

      "Bear baying is a cruel and horrendous abuse of bears in our state," said Carol M. Elliott, president of Animal Protection Efforts (APE) of South Carolina. "DNR, supported by APE, a statewide animal protection organization, has been working diligently to eradicate bear abuse in South Carolina. Labor intensive investigation and evidence gathering by DNR has resulted in several arrests and bear rescues. We are very pleased that DNR will continue to investigate bear abuses in our state."