Columbia -- The bears did better than the hunters in the first black bear hunting season on South Carolina's coast in more than a half-century.
Only one of the 30 hunters who drew tags to hunt bears this month in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties managed to bag one.
A 197-pound female was killed Wednesday in an agricultural field in Georgetown County, said Deanna Ruth, a wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Some animal protection groups complained when the agency approved the first coastal bear season since the 1950s. They said that even though the bear population has grown, it isn't large enough to handle hunting pressure.
But if the first-year experience is any indication, many more bears will die in vehicle collisions than from hunting. Most years, a dozen or more coastal bears die on the highways, with a peak of 41 in 2007.
Ruth expects hunters will do better in future seasons. This year's season was approved in September, giving hunters little time to scout the woods.
Still, the agency expected hunters to kill five to eight bears this season.
Bear hunting has long been allowed for two weeks in October in three Upstate counties. Hunters in Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties have killed about 50 bears annually in recent years.
Upstate bear hunter Dennis Chastain said it doesn't surprise him the coastal bear hunt wasn't productive this year. Hunters in that area might be less experienced scouting for bears, and Chastain thinks the best date for the season on the coast would be late October, when bears feed on nuts dropped by hardwood trees.
"I'd have a hard time still hunting a bear down on the coast," Chastain said. "It's just hard to pin a bear down."
Coastal regulations allow hunting only without the use of dogs -- still hunting -- and no baiting was allowed during the season, which ran Dec. 1 through Thursday.
The bear killed Wednesday was "one that usually gave farmers headaches, which is one of the reasons we went to a hunting season," Ruth said.
Wildlife officials plan to meet early next year to determine if details of the coastal season need to be tweaked.
Sammy Fretwell contributed to this report.