Bears: Out of the woods and into the burbs in South Carolina

Once confined to the mountains and remote coastal swamps, black bears are being spotted in parts of South Carolina for the first time in generations.

Wildlife managers and scientists say black bears not only are increasing their territory but are growing in numbers in the Palmetto State.

"They're everywhere," said Skip Still, a state biologist who keeps bear statistics.

People have reported seeing bears in 36 of the state's 46 counties since 2004.

Before that, bears were seen in only a handful of counties.

Rebounding forests provide more food, experts say. And more food can support a growing population.

Younger bears might be feeling crowded, experts say, and striking out on their own in new territories.

Since 2004, people have encountered bears in 36 of the state's 46 counties, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. In contrast, people in only a handful of counties reported seeing bears in 2004.

The number of black bears declined after European settlers arrived in South Carolina. The settlers cleared land and hunted the animals as pests.

Now, maturing forests provide better habitat for bears, which thrive in woodlands filled with nuts and berries, experts say.

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