SC may outlaw bear hunting tactic

COLUMBIA -- Captive bears would be rescued by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources from people who chain them and then sic their hunting dogs on them, if a bill introduced by a Columbia Democrat becomes law.

"This bill is the first step in outlawing this savage act of animal abuse," said S.C. Senator Joel Lourie in a statement.

"South Carolina should be known for its natural beauty and hospitality, not the only state where you can sic dogs on chained bears."

The practice of "bear-baying" involves removing a bear's teeth and claws and chaining it. The hunting dogs are then allowed to attack the immobilized bear as a training exercise.

DNR spokesman Brett Witt declined to stake a position on Lourie's bill, but said, "The possession of black bears by individuals is not considered biologically sound, safe for the local community, or in the best long-term interest of the wild black bear resource. We also do not consider bear baying/baiting a legitimate field trial."

He said no additional permits will be issued to allow people to keep the animals, adding, "no additional permits will be issued for the captive possession of black bears in South Carolina, other than those legally possessed in another state and brought into South Carolina for temporary exhibition."

South Carolina is currently the only state where the practice of bear baying is legal, according to the S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus. The DNR initially issued 37 permits in 2006, but through attrition the number of permits has fallen to 22, according to Witt.

Lourie's legislation requires the state agency to place the bears in suitable settings, such as a zoo or animal park.

Cary Chamblee, spokesman for the S.C. Camo Coalition, an organization representing a range of sportsmen, has called the practice of bear-baying unethical.

State lawmakers will return to work next month.

Reach Sarita Chourey at sarita.chourey@morris.com or (803) 727-4257

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