Lithia Park's wild things

The first thing I told my brother when he rolled into town Tuesday night was to check out Lithia Park.

"Just watch out for the wild dogs, cougars and deer," I said.

Our precious Lithia Park has become "Where the Wild Things Are" this week.

I half expect to see a wildebeest when I hike in the park these days, along with possibly a Sasquatch. And, with all this apocalyptic talk, I wouldn't be surprised to see a beast straight out of the book of Revelation, with the head of a cougar, body of deer and wings of a duck.

After all the strange sightings and bizarre behavior in the park this week, who knows what's really in there?

First a man walking his dog on a trail reported seeing a cougar feeding on a deer at about 7 a.m. Friday.

Then two women running on trails above the park said they saw a pitbull-Labrador mix attack a deer in a similar location, about 40 minutes before the man saw the cougar.

Was the cougar really a dog? Was the dog really a cougar?

Have a dog and cougar teamed up to help reduce Ashland's deer population?

And what else is happening in the 93-acre park that we don't yet know about?

Maybe this is the year the wild things in the park have finally decided to rise up together and take back their land.

That's one thing I try to keep in mind when we humans have problems with cougars or deer: They were here first.

And, honestly, I don't think these forest animals are really interested in wreaking havoc on our neighborhoods and flower gardens. They're in our neighborhoods because we've encroached on their space elsewhere or have altered their habitat, forcing them to rely on our plants or pets for food.

They don't want to be in our neighborhoods. They're not pining for white-picket fences, lattes and the domestic life. They want to be in the forest.

But if we keep sucking away at the forest, logging tree after tree, the animals will spill over onto our manicured lawns.

Then Ashland — not just the park — will become "Where the Wild Things Are." And that's only fun until it's your garden or pet getting munched on.

Lithia Park is unique in that it's one place where I feel we have, perhaps, been able to balance human desires with the needs of the forest. As the park unfolds from downtown, it gradually gets wilder and denser, until you really are in the forest.

So it's really no wonder that we're seeing wild things such as cougars and deer in the park as of late. (Although, I can't really think of an excuse for a domesticated dog running loose in the park and attacking a deer.) Since my brother's in town, I am going to use this opportunity to explore the wilds of Lithia Park. That's right: We're going "Where the Wild Things Are."

We'll let you know what we see — if we make it out alive.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or For past columns see

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