What should you do if you encounter a bear? - FOX Carolina 21

What should you do if you encounter a bear?

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A small bear seen in a Powdersville backyard in June. (Courtesy the Brockways) A small bear seen in a Powdersville backyard in June. (Courtesy the Brockways)

There have been more than 100 bear sightings in the Upstate in 2012. During the spring and summer months they're more likely to wander out of the woods and into our neighborhoods.

But what if you come face-to-face with a black bear?

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said there is a right thing, and a wrong thing to do in those situations and it's not something to take lightly.

Bears have been sighted in every county in the Upstate, not just near the mountains.

No reported injuries or deaths to humans have been caused by black bears in South Carolina at this time. However, they are capable of deadly force if put into the wrong situation.

Black bear antics often make headlines for being cute and funny, even in the Upstate. In June, a young black bear was caught red-handed in a Berea Forest neighborhood tree.

"We had calls on that bear, so we set a trap but weren't able to catch it," said DNR Wildlife Biologist Tom Swayngham.

Swayngham said it makes sense that so many young bears are popping up near our homes.

"It's the time of year the mother kicks out her previous offspring, so they end up in these odd places," Swayngham said.

But most black bears weigh a few hundred pounds, can run 30 mph for short distances and can quickly climb any tree.

"They're stronger than humans pound-for-pound, they live everyday in the woods, they are much more powerful then we are," Swayngham said.

The DNR recommends avoiding bears because of their strength.

"We've never had a bear attack in South Carolina, they've never hurt anyone," Swayngham said. "But, if it were to happen you'd want to fight, fight the animal."

Those who find themselves face-to-face with a bear should stand their ground and slowly back away.

"Running away triggers a pursuit response," Swayngham said. "Any wild animal that sees something running away, they are going to chase after it."

Those who are out hiking or camping in the woods should make their presence known.

"If you're walking through the woods, it's not a bad idea to make some noise, sing or whistle just to let animals know you are there,"Swayngham said.  

To avoid encountering a bear all together, eliminate all food attractions in the area. Food attractions includes pet food, bird feeders, trash, garbage and food scraps.

In the south, bears are less likely to be aggressive as northern bears in colder climates. The DNR believes this is because southern bears hibernate less, and aren't under as much food stress as bears that endure longer winters.

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