A bill approved in both the state House and Senate this week would roll back the special lottery system in place for bear hunting along the South Carolina coast, instead fully opening the bear hunting season as long as hunters purchase bear tags.
Lead sponsor State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, said that the bear population was getting too large for parts of the state.
Clemmons said people in his district complained that bears are moving into residential areas and are commonly seen on roadways. These complaints prompted Clemmons to work with the Department of Natural Resources on how to better control the population.
“I believe in the last six years a total of approximately ten bear have been harvested,” Clemmons said. “The DNR says in order to have meaningful control in ways that they believe it needs to be controlled, there need to be about 30 bear from each county taken.
Previously hunters had to enter into a lottery drawing to obtain a bear hunting tag before the week-long bear hunting season in late October. Under the new rule,s the bear season has no calendar season and is only limited by a county quota set by DNR. Using the tag system, lowers the barrier to hunters aiming to harvest bear which would keep the population within the realm the DNR deems appropriate.
“You don’t want the populations to get too low and you don’t want them to rise too high and that balancing act is a core function of the Department of Natural Resources,” said Clemmons.
He hopes the new bill will help curb the population growth of coastal bears and fully opens the hunting season along the coast and Midlands. To keep track of the number of bears taken, Clemmons says the DNR will implement new technology to inform hunters within 24 hours that the county bear quota was reached and the season is over. The DNR will use a telecheck system that will alert all hunters via the phone number listed on the bear tag that county quota was reached and the season is over.
“If that trial run is successful,” said Clemmson, the DRN would, “apply the telecheck system to turkey hunting and then go then to the next highest population and apply it to deer.”
Bear hunters in DNR hunting Zone 1 in the Upstate must still follow the previously established bear hunting season.