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What To Do If You Encounter A Black Bear

by Dennis Matherly on 08/06/18

The black bear is one of the many animals that make up our local wildlife population. They can range in size from as small as 100 lbs. for females to over 500 lbs. for older well-fed males. Their average lifespan is around 18 years and there are an estimated 300-400 black bears that live in the coastal areas of South Carolina. They are great swimmers and climbers who are most active from June through August - their peak breeding season. As more and more housing developments take up land that was once bear habitat, close encounters with bears will continue to increase. 

Bears eat mostly plants, berries and nuts (80% of their diet) and only eat a small amount of meat or insects (20%). However, like any wild animal, a bear will not ignore an easy meal left out and accessible by a careless human. In general, most black bears are shy and wary of humans. Unless someone has been feeding the bear or you happen to get between a mama bear and her cubs, most encounters resolve quickly and safely if you follow a few simple guidelines. 

1. Never feed bears - intentionally or unintentionally. Bears will take advantage of any food source you leave accessible (or they think they smell - like your uncleaned grill). Keep trash secured, clean grills/outdoor cooking devices, pick up pet food at night and take down bird feeders at night. If a bear finds an easy meal at your house, the chances are higher he or she will return and end up becoming a nuisance bear. 

2. Never approach baby bears. Even if you don't see mama bear, she's there and she's watching. If you do find yourself between a mama bear and her cubs, keep your eyes on mama (but don't make eye contact) and slowly back away until you can get into a house or other safe area. Allow the bear and her cubs to leave on their own before going outside again. 

3. Do not climb a tree to escape a bear. They are excellent climbers and are better at it than most humans. 

4. Do not make eye contact with a bear. However, you do want to keep an eye on the bear as you slowly back away. Stand up straight and make yourself appear as large as possible without acting in a threatening way as you are backing away. 

5. Talk calmly and gently to the bear so it can identify you as human. Most bears are leery of humans and will be equally eager to get away from you too. 

6. Never run from a bear if you can possibly avoid it. Like most wild animals, when you run away from them, it makes it more likely you'll be misidentified as food. 

If you have any encounter with a bear, make sure the bear has completely moved on from the area before you go outdoors again to avoid an additional encounter. If you have any questions or have a bear on your property that is in no hurry to leave, call Pee Dee Wildlife for assistance. 

Quick Guide To Venomous & Non-Venomous Snakes

by Dennis Matherly on 07/17/18

It's summertime and all of our snake friends are now awake for the season and on the go. While this quick guide of characteristics can help you differentiate between venomous and non-venomous snakes, please keep in mind to never intentionally approach a snake in an attempt to identify it. Always leave snake removal issues to the pros! Plus, even if a snake is not venomous, being bitten by any snake is an unpleasant experience. 

Snake Head Shape 
The shape of a snake's head can help you identify whether it is venomous or not. Venomous snakes tend to have a broad and triangular head. This shape occurs because the snake's venom is produced toward the back of the head near the neck. This makes it look as if the snake has a large, bulb-like head and a skinny neck. 

Snake Eye Pupil Shape
There are exceptions but generally, snakes with round pupils are non-venomous. Snakes with slit pupils, similar to a cat, are generally venomous. However, finding yourself close enough to a snake to determine what type of pupil it has is not a good situation. Back away slowly and retreat to a safe distance. 

Snake Rattling
Rattlesnakes get their name from the rattle on the end of their tail. ALL rattlesnakes are venomous and should be avoided. Some species of snakes have developed behaviors to mimic the rattling sound by swishing their tail through leaves or debris. Best course of action is if you hear rattling to move slowly in the opposite direction. Also keep in mind that baby rattlesnakes don't rattle as the rattle is created as the snake sheds its skin as it grows, but they are deadly should they bite. 

If you encounter a snake, remembering this quick guide list of differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes will help you determine how serious of a threat the snake is. In South Carolina, we have a number of venomous snakes including rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin), Copperhead and Coral Snakes. When it comes to snakes, don't take chances. Call the wildlife experts at Pee Dee Wildlife for safe removal and relocation. 

Critter Crossing: Watch for Animals on the Road

by Dennis Matherly on 06/03/18

The heat is on and our local wildlife is on the move. Many animals viewed as pests are often discovered as roadkill this time of year. As our homes and developments take away more and more of their natural habitat, we encounter wildlife more often, especially on our roadways. Even animals many view as pests have important roles in our local ecosystems. For example, a single opossum can eat thousands and thousands of ticks throughout the summer and they're immune to Lyme - serving a very important role in protecting us from tick-borne illnesses. 

Additionally, some types of critters are suffering from declining populations due to being hit and killed by cars on our roadways. Turtles are a strong example of this issue. Turtle populations have been dropping steadily, in part due to roadway deaths. Local wildlife to watch for while driving include raccoons, geese, ducks, turtles, opossum, vultures, bobcats, deer, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, snakes and bears. 

Tips to Avoid Hitting Animals While Driving

Avoiding animals on the road isn't just good for them, it's good for you as well. Even small animals can cause damage to your vehicle and costly repairs or even cause a loss of control resulting in an accident. And all animals have a role in our ecosystem and should be respected. 

1. Be aware! - Distracted driving is a danger no matter where you are driving. If you're driving in wooded or wildlife-heavy areas, being aware can save an animal's life and yours too. Look for motion in roadside grasses or shrubs and watch for movement when driving in wooded areas for signs of wildlife near the roadway.

2. Stay calm and slow down/stop - If you do encounter an animal in the roadway, remain calm and slow down or stop, if needed. Don't honk your horn or flash your headlights at a wild animal as many will freeze when frightened and compound the problem. However, if you are stopped for an animal crossing the roadway, it is a good idea to turn your hazard lights or flashers on to alert other drivers to be cautious. 

3. Also look for animals in the distance - Turtles, for example, can look like rocks from a distance. Keep an eye out for anything that looks different or unusual on your route, both up close and from a distance to notice animals on the road as soon as you can. 

4. When you see one, expect more - Many animals travel in small groups or pairs. Deer for example, often travel in small groups so when you see one, expect there are others nearby, slow down, and be alert. Also, when you see an animal run across the roadway, keep in mind that animal might be running away from another animal (even a pet dog or cat). Many people avoid hitting the first animal but wind up hitting the second animal in these situations. 


Our local wildlife is diverse and each animal plays a role in our ecosystem. Unfortunately, as we build homes and roads and take over more of their habitat, we encounter them more frequently on our roadways. Being aware and knowing what to look for can go a long way in keeping you and our local wild animals safe. 

Bee A Honeybee Helper

by Dennis Matherly on 04/15/18

You may have heard about the alarming decline of honey bee populations throughout the United States, but also around the world. Honey bees serve a very important function in our environment and in our food chain. They not only produce honey but they also help pollinate crops as they forage for nectar and pollen. In South Carolina, about one-third of our crops are pollinated by honey bees, which equates to about $25 million worth of food each year. 

However, not everyone is comfortable with hundreds of honey bees hanging around if they pick your property to build a hive on. With honey bee populations declining and their importance to our ecosystem, you certainly don't want to harm them but what can you do? Let's take a look! 

The Buzz About Honey Bee Hives
If you have noticed a honey bee hive on your property and someone in your family has a bee/wasp allergy or you just aren't comfortable with so many bees hanging around, there are things you can do. First, keep in mind that honey bees are important to our ecosystem in a number of ways and they are unlikely to sting unless threatened (unlike yellow jackets, hornets and wasps). The best thing to do is to notify a wildlife removal and relocation service like Pee Dee Wildlife. Many of these services work with local beekeepers who can come out and safely relocate the hive to a bee farm. They have the expertise to relocate the honey bees without harming them. They'll also remove the hive structure itself to prevent a new group of bees from moving in. 

Support Healthy Honey Bees
Even if you don't have a hive on your property (and don't want one), there are still things you can do to help support a healthy and thriving honey bee population. Here are just a few ways you can help our local honey bees.

  • Avoid using chemicals on your lawn and outdoor pesticides as much as possible - these chemicals are deadly for bees. In September 2016, Dorchester County in South Carolina sprayed for mosquitoes in an effort to control the spread of Zika virus at the wrong time of day (about 8 A.M. after bees were already out and foraging), leading to a mass kill-off of over 2.5 million honey bees. 

  • Honey bees need a lot of water. Consider adding a small water fountain to your landscaping or fill a bird bath with fresh water each morning for honey bees to drink from during the daylight hours. Just be sure to dump the water out prior to dusk each day as mosquitoes use standing water to breed. 

  • If possible, leave a small area of your property for "wild growth" of local plants, such as grasses, wildflowers and even weeds. The more diverse sources of nectar and pollen honey bees have, the healthier the whole hive will be and the better the quality of the honey. 

  • Select plants for your yard that make for great bee food. Not every plant that blooms provides good food for bees, especially highly-hybridized plants. However, there are plenty of flowers, trees and even vegetables and herbs you can choose that feed honey bees. Trees such as Red Bud, Southern Magnolia, Cherry and Sourwood are great sources of bee food. Flowers and other plants that are good sources of bee food include clover, cone flower, poppies, geraniums, lotus, aster and bee palm to name a few. In your vegetable and herb garden, choose options such as squash, pumpkin, berries, sunflowers, corn, cow peas, sage and mint. 

With the weather warming up, honey bees are awake and foraging for food or even setting out in small swarms to establish new hives. If you notice a honey bee hive under construction on your property and need them removed, please call a responsible wildlife relocation service to safely move these vital critters to a location where they can thrive with a professional beekeeper. Pee Dee Wildlife is committed to preserving our local honey bee population and we are just a phone call away. 

Raccoons Do Not Make Good Roommates

by Dennis Matherly on 03/13/18

Raccoon Removal FlorenceRaccoons may look cute but if they get inside your home to hunker down and get cozy for the winter, it can be a serious problem. Not only do raccoons cause pretty significant property damage during their break-in and nesting efforts, but they also can carry and transmit illnesses that can make the people and pets in your family very sick. 

Why Are Raccoons in the Attic Dangerous? 

Whether they take up residence in the attic, basement, crawl space or walls, they aren't healthy or safe furry roommates. Aside from the property damage they cause (and they are strong critters), they can carry and transmit some scary viruses and bacteria to you and your pets. 

  • Rabies - Raccoons are one of the more susceptible species of wildlife when it comes to rabies. Rabies in people and our furry family, if left untreated, can be a fatal viral illness. 

  • Salmonella - If you think of raw chicken when you hear "salmonella" you're not alone. However, raccoons are carriers for salmonella bacteria, which can lay dormant for long periods and cause illness long after the raccoon roommates are gone. 

  • Raccoon Roundworm - This parasite is found in raccoon feces and when that feces dries out, it can become air-borne and infect you by breathing it in. If left untreated, this infection is fatal. 

  • Leptospirosis - Leptospirosis bacteria is found in raccoon urine. If your skin comes into contact with it, it can easily be transferred to the mouth or other infection routes. This type of bacteria causes serious infection, including meningitis. 

  • Giardiasis - Giardiasis bacteria is well-known for causing severe and potentially life-threatening diarrhea and dehydration. Infected raccoons shed this bacteria in their feces, which can contaminate surfaces or water (and you or your pets).
How Do Raccoons Get In? 

Raccoons are clever and much stronger than you might realize. Here are just a few common ways raccoons make their way into your home. 

  • Chimney - Your chimney is very similar to a hollowed-out tree trunk in a raccoon's eyes. Hollowed-out trees and stumps are a favorite nesting place for mama raccoons and their babies. 

  • Roof Vents - Roof vents allow for airflow to your attic. Raccoons feel the warm air from the vents and simply rip off vent covers and invite themselves in. 

  • Along Gutters - The roofing along gutters sustains more wear and tear than other areas of your roof. The water flow and the freezing and thawing cause these parts of the roof to rot more easily. Raccoons take advantage of this rot as it weakens the wood, allowing them to rip it open and climb on in. 

  • Pipe Vents - Any kind of piping or venting that exits your home through the roof typically has a bit of extra space in the hole around it. This extra space is typically covered with rubber or waterproof matting. Unfortunately, the matting might block water, but it doesn't stop raccoons. 
Raccoons are cute critters - from a distance. It's extremely important to remember that raccoons are still wild animals and wild animals should be handled by professionals to avoid injury or illness for people and pets. If you have a raccoon roommate or a brood of them, call Pee Dee Wildlife for proper handling, relocation and inspection for possible infectious agents.