Carolina bear hunters set records in 2022
The 2022 bear hunting season was a record-breaking year for both Carolinas.
North Carolina hunters killed a total of 4056 bears, the highest number on record, and an 11-percent increase over 2021’s numbers.
Colleen Olfenbuttel, the NCWRC’s black bear and furbearer biologist, said one reason for the increase is likely due to a poor acorn crop, which forced bears to move about in search of food.
“The increase in the harvest in the Mountain BMU likely reflects the influence of the poor acorn crop we observed in the fall 2022 in this region,” said Olfenbuttel. “Acorn production has been surveyed by the Wildlife Commission for 40 years. And when acorn production is poor, bears will move more in search of fall foods, making them more vulnerable to both vehicle mortality and legal hunter harvest.”
Of the 4056 bears killed, 2420 were male, 1635 were female, and one bear was unknown.
South Carolina’s bear harvest was also a record, with a total of 174 bears killed during the 2-week period. This beat the previous record of 169 bears, which happened in 2021.
The majority (140) of South Carolina’s bears were killed in the Upstate, with the other 34 being harvested in the coastal unit.
As in NC, a poor acorn crop contributed to the rise in numbers, according to Tammy Waldrop, the SCDNR biologist tasked with keeping track of bear hunting in the state’s mountains.
The biggest South Carolina bear killed during the 2022 season was a 536-pounder taken in Oconee County by 13-year-old hunter Sawyer Baker of Westminster. Still hunters accounted for slightly more than half of those hunting with dogs.
Wildlife biologists estimate that South Carolina has a population of about 1500 black bears, with many moving back and forth between Georgia, NC and SC.