Black bear roams the white streets of Ashland

A black bear wandering the streets of southern Ashland this week is turning heads and causing some concerns, but he'll have no beef with police and wildlife officials as long as he keeps his aloof attitude.

The bear has been seen the past two days at the intersections of Washington and Ashland streets as well as Washington Street and Jefferson Avenue and where Siskiyou Boulevard crosses Crowson Road, according to the Ashland Police Department.

The large bear is easily seen against the backdrop of a snowy city and he appears to be walking with a limp, witnesses say.

But other than lighting up telephone lines at Ashland police and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, his visit has been perfectly uneventful, biologists say.

"This bear has displayed no sign of aggression to people and we have no evidence that it's torn up property or that it's gone after anyone's pet," says Mark Vargas, the Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Right now, it's just a bear in town and people should just stay away from it.

"Hopefully, it goes back to where it came from," he says.

Law enforcement officials have the discretion to shoot wildlife in city limits if the animal is deemed a threat, Vargas says.

Having bears wander into city limits is a rather common occurrence in Southern Oregon, often with the bears coming and going without anyone noticing.

Vargas says he has no plans to attempt to relocate the bruin because such efforts generally don't work — particularly in the dead of winter when it won't be familiar with winter food sources in new surroundings.Generally only injured cubs are candidates for rehab centers, so that's not an option for it, Vargas says. Relocated bears often exhibit the same behavior in their new haunts, so it just shifts any conflict from one community to another, Vargas says. Or, they turn around and come back.

The last time Vargas attempted to trap and relocate an urban bear was in 2009, when a young bear was discovered in a tree at the playground of Medford's Lone Pine Elementary School just as kids entered their classrooms. That bear was tranquilized and trucked to far northeastern Klamath County. It then covered 78 air miles over the Cascade Mountains in 10 days before it was shot legally by a hunter about 1.5 miles from the east Medford school. Vargas fears someone is providing the Ashland bear food, causing it to show interest in remaining in the area.

Anyone who stumbles upon the bear should leave it alone and walk away, Ashland police said.

Vargas says one thing Ashlanders shouldn't do is go looking for the bear. That might invite a confrontation that the bear isn't interested in having.

"That would do a disservice to the bear," he says.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at

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