CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – After learning about the death of a young bear in Awendaw over the weekend, many found themselves surprised to discover there was a bear population in the Lowcountry.

Officials with Awendaw-McClellanville Consolidated Fire District said someone who was passing through the area found a deceased black bear Sunday afternoon off Highway 17 near Milcrest Road.

The bear, which is believed to have been between three and four years old, was struck by a vehicle sometime overnight.

State wildlife officials say black bears are the largest land mammals found in South Carolina – approximately 1,000 are native to the state, which has two distinct populations.

“One can be found in the mountains and the second in the northern coastal plain, which includes Horry, Georgetown, Marion, Williamsburg, Berkeley and Charleston counties,” according to wildlife biologist Kayla Brantly with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

While black bears require a large, expansive forest setting, wetlands like swamps and bay provided a good habitat, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

They say black bears are adaptable – and if they find adequate food sources and have suitable dens – SCDNR said the animals can be found in a variety of habitats.

“Home range for bears must include den sites, food, water and cover for adults and young. Typically, male bear home ranges can be 18 to 160 square miles, while home ranges for females are smaller, around 6-19 square miles,” SCDNR reported.

But a shortage of natural food sources and lack of rainfall can cause home ranges to vary.

DNR said black bears will travel large distances to find adequate food sources. “Juvenile bears, especially the males, must disperse to find new home territories. Dispersing juvenile bears have been sighted in many counties in South Carolina. These bears are usually transient and do not stay in the area for long.”

SCDNR reminds residents that while people may be excited about seeing a bear, they are wild animals and should be respected. “Black bears are usually shy, evasive, and non-aggressive toward people,” officials say. “People and black bears can live in the same area with little conflict by following basic rules.”

You can report bear sightings online by visiting: