Bear, cub spotted in tree

A quiet, hilly neighborhood on Courtney Street above Lithia Park was visited by a black bear and her cinnamon-colored cub Thursday, drawing a cautious response from the Ashland Police Department.

"My family was concerned for our safety, but also for the bear's safety," 19-year-old Claude Akins said Thursday afternoon, standing about 100 yards away from the tree where the bears were discovered.

Akins is the grandson of the actor Claude Akins, known in the 1970s and '80s for his roles in films and TV shows, including Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo in "B.J. and the Bear."

Akins moved to his home near the partially wooded outskirts of town east of Lithia Park about a year ago from Santa Rosa, Calif.

"This is not something we're used to," he said. "We're intruding on the bear as much as it's intruding on us."

Ashland police were called in the early afternoon after nearby residents became aware of the bear, according to officer Bon Stewart.

"We told the neighbors to stay back and leave it alone and everything quieted down," he said. "But then the media started coming and we had to come up here and do it all over again with them."

By 1 p.m. there were at least three television camera crews, a couple of reporters and a photographer in the neighborhood trying to get a shot of the bear and talk to people.

"They're all taking pictures and zooming their cameras," Akins' sister Angela Akins said. "This one television camera guy was so obnoxious. He goes right under the tree and she's (the bear) watching him wherever he goes."

Akins has a 17-month-old child of her own and said she believed the commotion was making the bear nervous, putting herself and people nearby at risk. Akins and her child saw the bear and its cub in the tree earlier in the day and it appeared calm.

"As a mother of a young child, I kind of identified with the momma," she said. "As more people came, she put the cub up on a branch and lowered herself on the tree and I was worried she was getting more stressed."

The police were in contact with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Rogue District wildlife biologist Mark Vargas, who said the best course of action was to leave the bear alone and let it go away in its own time.

Deputy Police Chief Rich Walsh, who was on the scene on Courtney Street in the afternoon, confirmed that was the plan.

Pascale McVarish, who has lived in Ashland for a year and a half, was the first to see the bear, a little after 8 a.m.

"My garbage was a mess this morning," McVarish said Thursday afternoon. "I took my dog for a walk and saw a big pile of poo at the bottom of the tree. I looked up and saw this big black shape."

Closer inspection revealed the shape to be a bear, and McVarish saw it had a small cub with it.

"We know they are close, but never that close," said McVarish, who recalled seeing a bear walking down the street in the neighborhood last year. "We don't want them to be scared — especially the mother."

Myles Murphy is an editor and reporter with the Daily Tidings. Reach him at

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