ASHLAND — Parks officials say multiple bear sightings in Ashland in the past two days are a reminder to be alert when on trails.
A young black bear was spotted in Lithia Park on Thursday, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department said in a news release, and there were at least two other sightings during the past week.
Ashland resident Lori Brandt said she was running on White Rabbit trail above Park Street at about 4 p.m. Wednesday when she came upon a mother and baby bear.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends the following when encountering a bear:
Avoid direct eye contact.
If the bear stands on its hind legs, it is trying to detect a scent and not necessarily behaving aggressively.
Give the bear a way to escape.
If there are cubs, steer clear and leave the area.
Stay calm and do not run or make any sudden motions, then move away slowly.
"I'm running along, and there is a baby bear right there on the edge of the trail. I skidded to a stop about 2 to 3 feet from him," said Brandt.
The little cub scampered up a nearby tree when he saw her. Then Brandt noticed the cub's mother sitting nearby. "I saw the mama right there, and she huffed at me," said Brandt. "I stayed very still and tried not to make eye contact. As her baby started to come down (the tree), she huffed a little more, so I backed away slowly."
According to Brandt, the cub was very small and the mother seemed barely mature enough to have a cub.
"I could smell her. It was this musky kind of animal smell — not like dogs," said Brandt. "I don't even know how to describe it. The cub was adorable, very small. I don't think he was very old."
A newcomer to Oregon, Brandt moved to Ashland from Utah and has lived in the area three months. An avid runner, she's encountered lots of rattlesnakes in Utah — but never bears, she said.
"That was a first for me. Since I arrived in Ashland, I've wanted to see these bears," said Brandt.
Moving slowly and not approaching the bears was the right move, wildlife authorities say.
"I don't know if I read it somewhere, but every instinct just told me to stop and move slow," said Brandt. "I know if I would have kept running she would have proceeded as though I was a threat to that baby. It was quite an amazing experience. I'm glad I had it, and I'm glad I have all my parts."
At about 1:30 p.m. July 12, a person walking on a trail above the city parks department offices in Lithia Park saw a young-looking, light-colored black bear, Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson said.
"I received the information secondhand, but I'm speculating it was a yearling bear," said Robertson.
The bear didn't seem overly frightened but did leave the area, he said.
Robertson said it's not uncommon to see bears in Ashland.
"It's not unusual. We do live in a forest interface, and they were here before we were," Robertson said.
In a news release, the parks department reminded Ashland residents around the parks to secure garbage cans, don't leave pet food outdoors, clean up fallen fruit from fruit trees, remove scented candles, clean barbecues, remove bird feeders and, most importantly, avoid feeding the bears.
The parks department advises people to be observant when walking after dark and consider walking in groups or with a noisemaker such as a bell. By law, a bear or other wildlife cannot be killed unless it demonstrates aggressive behavior toward humans or domesticated animals.
Brandt said she warned other people she saw on the trail that there were bears ahead.
"I've walked that trail nearly every day in the last two weeks and I've never seen them. I'll be much more mindful now," said Brandt. "They were right off the trail."
Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at 541-776-4486 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.