All in the bear family

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Birdie, one of the bears that visit Harriet and Carlisle Hewitt on Melrose Mountain. The Hewitts said they think Birdie is the mother of Little Bess and Big Bubba, who are the parents of new cubs BoBo and BeBe. (photo submitted by Harriet Hewitt)

It’s not all that uncommon for Tryon residents to come across a bear in their yard these days, but one part-time Tryon couple has gotten to know a whole family of bears over the past couple of years.
Harriet and Carlisle Hewitt, who have a home on Melrose Mountain, have become so familiar with a family of five bears that they have given the animals names. The bears frequent their property and their deck. One bear recently damaged their screen door in an attempt to enter the home.
Harriet Hewitt speaks of the family as if they are her children. Carlisle said he has a different opinion, because he is the one who has had to take down all their birdfeeders and he is beginning to become fearful of the bears’ level of comfort around humans.
Harriet Hewitt said they began seeing the bear they named Birdie in the fall of 2009. Harriet said she believes Birdie is the mother of Little Bess and Big Bubba and the grandmother of BoBo and BeBe, who are cubs that appeared this year. Birdie’s face looks older, the Hewitts said, so they are sure she is the older of the bears. The Hewitts have not seen Birdie this year, although she was a frequent visitor in 2009 and 2010.
The Hewitts, who reside in Brooksville, Fla., visit their Tryon home frequently.
Kip and Carol Jean Vosburg, who live off Hearthstone Ridge Road in Landrum, also had a visit from a bear earlier this month. After emptying the Vosburghs’ bird feeder, the bear decided to peek inside their sunroom (see the photo above). The Vosburghs said the bear was easily frightened away.
Bear sightings have become increasingly common in South Carolina this year. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently said more than 200 bear sightings have been reported in Upstate South Carolina so far this year, compared to only 110 sightings in all of 2010.
DNR said it is formulating a plan to address increased bear sightings in the state. The agency says its goal is to keep the state’s bear population at a level that fits with land-use objectives and acceptable levels of human contact.
DNR says it has no records of bears attacking people in the state, but it reminds residents that feeding bears is illegal and could result in a fine of up to $500.
Polk County Wildlife Officer Toby Jenkins said recently that there has been no significant rise in the number of bear sightings in Polk County this year.

BoBo, one of the bears that visit the Hewitts’ residence, is a cub that just appeared this year. (photo by Harriet Hewitt)

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