Sources inside the South Carolina House of Representatives say that they expect the “bear pen” legislation to be a dead animal for the legislative year.
Republicans Marion Frye of Lexington, Jeff Duncan of Laurens and David Hiott of Pickens had sponsored a bill that would create permits for the penning of bears inside 200-acre fences so that hunting dogs could be trained to hunt them. That practice is already allowed in South Carolina for foxes and coyotes. South Carolina allows a two-week-long bear hunting season in the mountains at the end of October. Dogs can be used to chase the animals during one of those weeks. Last year, hunters killed 48 bears.
Black bears can weigh up to 600 pounds but they aren’t usually aggressive. There are no reports on record of injuries from bears.
Opponents say penning bears will lead to “canned hunts” where the animals are shot in pens.
Some expect the issue to resurface in the legislature this year, but others believe, that since debate was adjourned on the issue Wednesday in the midst of such controversy, that it’s just like a penned animal not going anywhere. Even officials from the Department of Natural Resources are opposed, saying that their agency wants to promote hunting, and such issues cast a bad light on hunting in general.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals weighed in on the issue. PETA spokesperson Nicole Matthews says, “First of all it’s cowardly and unnatural to put a dog against a bear, in order to shoot them, to have a trophy. Some hunters are confining bears to cages to train their dogs, but even officials at South Carolina’s own Department of Natural Resources is opposed to large animals in enclosed areas.”
Some upstate hunters keep bears in small enclosures for dog-training purposes. The Department of Natural Resources has issued permits for people to keep 25 bears in captivity. But the agency has stopped issuing new permits for captive bears.
Matthews says bear hunting is headed out, across the U.S. “Hunting bears with hounds is illegal in two-thirds of our states. Of the 28 states that allow bear hunting, only 17 allow hunting with hounds.”
Most South Carolina black bears live in the mountains or along the Pee Dee coast.