Karen Kee didn’t need a news report to tell her black bear sightings are up; she saw one from the porch of her Chester County home Sunday evening.
“We have lived here 28 years and seen deer and possums and raccoons and other wildlife, but this was the first bear,” Kee said. She said she saw the bear in Richburg, across S.C. 9 from Lewisville schools.
“I told my husband not to go outside because there was a bear,” Kee said.
The husband did what husbands sometimes do. He went outside and looked.
Bear sightings have been reported in Chester County, near Hunter Road south of Richburg and other places, said John Agee, Richburg Fire Department Chief.
When Giti Tire was clearing land for its plant in the Richburg area of Chester County, a black bear living in that area was seen on camera several times, Agee said.
Sighting are normal for this time of year as last year’s cubs start out on their own, looking for food and territory, wildlife officials said.
Confirmed sightings happened in the past week in rural areas in northern Fairfield and Lancaster counties, said wildlife officer Lt. Shean Coates of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
“We wouldn’t be surprised if bears were seen in Chester County in those areas,” Coates said. “Bear sightings are on the increase right now because the cubs are setting out on their own.”
Bears can roam over many miles, Coates said.
In 2015, bears were all the rage in Rock Hill, York and Clover.
In the last week of June in 2015 five people spotted black bears roaming through Rock Hill, including just blocks from downtown. At least 10 reports of black bear sightings were taken by police in June 2015 in York County.
In July 2015, York’s David Roberts took a picture of a bear crossing a busy street inside the city.
A bear ran across a busy Interstate 77 exit ramp in front of an astonished York County deputy in June 2015. A bear was in a tree in downtown Kershaw in June 2013. And traps were set for a bear near downtown Rock Hill in June 2011.
Police in Chester and York counties have not taken any bear sighting reports in the past week, but they said that bear sightings do increase in June and July.
Officials urge caution. Never approach a black bear and don’t leave food, open garbage or any other items that might attract bears looking for an easy meal, they say.
There’s one other thing going on in summer, said Coates.
“It’s mating season for black bears,” he said.