Bear spotted roaming Great Falls

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By Nancy Parsons

GREAT FALLS – He was believed to be a young rambling male and was probably just passing through town when he was spotted by several curious onlookers.

He stood about 4 feet tall and weighed around 100 pounds.

Preferring to remain out of view, the young male crouched behind tall underbrush and small trees in a wooded area off Pinecrest Avenue last Wednesday evening.

He remained clear of sight for at least 30 minutes while two police officers and the Great Falls Reporter editor patiently waited for his movement.

The officer used binoculars to try to gain a closer view of the animal but the bear decided it wanted its privacy and hunkered underneath some underbrush and trees.

Although no contact was made with the animal, wildlife authorities said they feel certain the bear was a male black bear yearling.

The estimated 1-year-old bear was first spotted by a child earlier in the day as her mother drove by the area.

An employee of United Contractors said he caught a glimpse of the yearling the same morning. He described the black bear the same way the reserve police officer did.

Great Falls Police Chief Steven Rice said a child saw the bear and alerted her mother, who in turn called local authorities.

Rice said the local department notified the S.C. Department of Natural Resources of the bear’s spotting.

Rice said he was concerned because the bear was in close proximity of a mill village. He said he was afraid the bear may move closer into the populated area.

He cautioned people to stay away from the bear, don’t try to pet, feed or harm the animal.

“They are kind of rambling this time of the year,” DNR spokesman Robert McCullough said. “Unless the bear is doing damage, leave it alone. They don’t want to be around people just like people don’t want to be around them.”

DNR Wildlife Biologist Charles Ruth said male bear have a tendency to make these type excursions.

Ruth said the bear may have come from the mountains or from eastern North Carolina.

He said South Carolina has two bear populations. The inland population near Myrtle Beach has an estimated 500 to 700 bear in it. Another bear population containing around 1,000 bear can be found in the mountainous area of the state.

Ruth said DNR has been getting a lot more calls of bear sitings in the foothills area of the state, especially around Anderson County.

“The calls have picked up in the last few years,” Ruth said.

Ruth said a bear was found near Interstate 26 in Newberry County about a month ago.

The bear roamed the area near the Lake Murray Dam and wandered near Columbia, Ruth said.

Ruth said the bear in Great Falls may “pop up” here and there before starting his trek back to where he came from.

“A wild bear typically reacts like deer and runs from people,” Ruth said.

Ruth cautions people to treat bear just as they would any other wildlife.

He said crowds should not gather because the bear will climb a tree in fear and won’t come back down until the crowd leaves. Sometimes such activity results in the bear’s death.

Ruth said he has never heard of a bear attack in the state.

Although bears are protected animals, there is a bear season in the mountains, Ruth said.

“Treat them like other wildlife. Enjoy getting a glimpse,” Ruth said.

“They’re just trying to find their place in this world.”