MYRTLE BEACH — If you find yourself in Myrtle Beach this summer, don’t be surprised if that dark shape in the distance turns out to be a black bear.
Bears are most active at this time of year, and that, combined with habitat depletion, makes it more likely for humans to encounter them, and vice versa, said Kayla Brantley, a state bear biologist based in Horry County.
“They are emerging from their dens and out looking for food,” she said. “Also, the peak of their breeding season is June, July, sometimes early August.”
A state Department of Natural Resources official said it’s not a surprise that a bear was recently spotted crossing a street near homes just north of Myrtle Beach.
The bear was seen crossing the road on Royals Circle, a wooded area that backs up to the Waccamaw River off S.C. 905.
About 80 percent of a bear’s diet consists of berries, nuts and plants while the other 20 percent includes insects and meats, Brantley said. She receives several calls about bears that typically involve a bear spotted in a yard, agriculture field or crossing a highway.
“Bears are being seen because of the loss of habitat and food resources,” she said, “which is pushing them to move and look elsewhere.”
As a result of the habitat depletion, Brantley said the bear population is expanding in Horry County and so are the human-bear encounters. But there are no documented black bear attacks in the state.
Sightings should be reported to DNR which is using the data to determine if and where the bear population is expanding and to help manage the black bear population, Brantley said.
The possibility of seeing a bear will continue into late fall, Brantley said, as bears search for food before winter.