Killing a mama bear with cubs at her side and baiting bears with sweets to make them easy targets — those are some of the crimes seven men in the upstate are charged with committing.
The arrests capped off the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' four-year investigation into illegal black bear hunting, mostly in the Jocassee Gorge area.
The seven hunters from Greenville, Pickens and Oconee Counties were arrested Thursday.
“We do have a good bear population now. It has not always been like that. And basically, we're the only ones here to protect that resource,” said South Carolina DNR Sgt. D.J. Riley.
Riley said hunters go after bears for their fur, their meat, and for decorations like mounts and rugs.
There are South Carolina laws in place to protect the bear population.
There are only two weeks a year when bear hunting is legal. You can do still hunting with no dogs Oct. 17-23. You can do party hunting with dogs Oct. 24-30. You need a hunting license, a big game permit and a bear tag.
But it's never legal to lure bears with sweets, hunt bears that weigh less than 100 pounds, kill a mama bear with cubs, or sell any part of a black bear.
“The penalties are stiff. The fine amounts, the jail time is stiff. So we hope it'll make people think in the future,” said Riley.
Riley said the seven men charged in this investigation did not work together.
They could face fines of up to $2,500 and up to two years behind bars.
Charles Blowers, 63, of Sunset was charged with conspiracy to violate wildlife laws, illegal trapping and illegally taking a bear or bear parts.
David Brown, 41, of Liberty was charged with conspiracy to violate wildlife laws, illegally taking a bear or bear parts and hunting on land without consent.
Wesley Caylor Hedden, 34, of Central was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Thomas Mann, 35, of Travelers Rest was charged with conspiracy to violate wildlife laws.
Ty Cooper Mills, 23, of Marietta was charged with conspiracy to violate wildlife laws.
Sherwood Lanier Patterson, 64, of Seneca was charged with conspiracy to violate wildlife laws, illegally taking a bear or bear parts and hunting without consent.
Jason Russell Sullivan, 27, of Central was charged with conspiracy to violate wildlife laws and hunting without a license, tag or stamp.
All seven are now out on bond.
You can help keep the Upstate's bear population safe from poachers. This investigation was sparked by tips from people like you. If you come across something you think is a violation, call the DNR's 24-hour hotline: 1-800-922-5431. Callers can remain anonymous.