Huge bear seen on trail cam in northwestern South Carolina

A large black bear was spotted in late June 2021 on trail camera on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest.

Black bears are most common in the northwestern part of South Carolina but are no exclusive to that area. Some bears can be found on the Francis Marion National Forest along the coast. While most bears go out of their way to avoid people, encountering a bear on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests is a possibility to be mindful of.

Be prepared and well-informed -- "Know Before You Go." Check out "Bear Awareness" safety tips when camping and recreating on national forests or public lands. Being prepared will make your trip more relaxing and enjoyable.

A black bear in the forest

If you run into a bear:

  • Never approach or feed a bear. Especially if it's a lone cub. The mother may be nearby.
  • NEVER RUN. Remain calm and stand your ground.
  • Continue to face the bear while backing away slowly.
  • Group together and pick up any small children with you.
  • If the bear continues to approach, shout at the bear and make yourself look as large and imposing as possible. Stretch your arms overhead.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Bear spray is available at many outdoor retailers and can successfully deter a charging bear.

Bears can be drawn to areas with people if they learn to associate humans with food. Both people and bears are put in danger when that happens. Avoid attracting bears at developed campsites by doing the following:

  • Keep your campsite clean by properly disposing of food scraps and garbage. Use the bear-resistant trashcans provided at developed campsites. Do not leave food or garbage inside fire rings, grills, or around your campsite.
  • Never store food inside your tent.
  • Never leave food or coolers unattended.
  • Store your food in a bear-resistant food container. If you do not have one, store your food inside a closed vehicle or camper trailer.
  • If a bear is spotted nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately.

Protect yourself while out hiking or camping in the backcountry by taking the following steps:

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Avoid camping and hiking alone in backcountry.
  • Read all signs at the trailhead and keep children close to you.
  • Watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, digging, ripped apart stumps and logs.
  • Make noise to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Do not hike in the dark. Hike during the day and stay on the trail.
  • Hang food, garbage and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk or another limb; use special food storage boxes and cable systems if available.
  • Eat and cook food up to 100 yards away from your tent.
  • Pack out trash; do not bury it.
  • Exercise caution when bringing pets along. Do not let dogs off leash; they may run into a bear and lead them back to you.

For additional bear safety tips, visit