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A surveillance camera captured this photo of a bear in Ashland. [Photo courtesy Ashland Police Department]

ODFW and Ashland Police warn citizens about bears

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Ashland Police Department are working together on an awareness campaign, “Be Bear Aware,” to remind people that spring is the season for hungry bears roaming around. the forest to the cities in search of food.

ODFW cites May through July as the peak month for hungry bears searching for food.

The “Be Bear Aware” campaign began in 2020, when ODFW recorded 103 bear complaints. In 2021, only 62 complaints were filed, but the ODFW fears bear disputes are on the rise overall.

Bear conflict is the term used by ODFW and Ashland Police to describe any interaction between bears and humans, pets or livestock.

ODFW divides bear conflicts into two categories: destructive bears and human security bears. Damaged bears enter sheds, chicken coops and sometimes houses. They rip siding from homes and overturn bird feeders, barbecues or compost bins in their search for food.

“If your bird feeder is on the ground every morning, it’s probably a bear,” said Matthew Vargas, assistant district wildlife biologist at ODFW, who advised at the time to remove the bird feeder. .

Bears are also attracted to garbage cans, fruit that has fallen from trees, pet food, and sometimes pets.

“Don’t give bears a reason to come to your yard or neighborhood,” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said.

To be bear-aware, residents should be aware of all possible bear attractants, Ashland Police and ODFW advised.

“They’re smart,” Vargas said. “When they find food somewhere, they will keep coming back.”

Being aware of bears means preventing access to any possible food rewards. Keep barbecues clean or hide them in a garage, remove fallen fruit from under trees, keep pets indoors at night, and keep pet food safe.

Keep trash cans in the garage until the last responsible moment to put them on the curb, and consider investing in bear-proof trash cans from Recology.

“Half of Ashland is built into the side of a mountain range,” O’Meara said. “We are encroaching on their natural habitat.”

The bears come from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest just outside the city limits and occasionally from Lithia Park.

For that reason, Vargas said, Ashland has the most bear conflict in southern Oregon, a bear-dense area. This is due not only to Ashland’s proximity to the forest and its extensive park system, but also to the structure of nearby towns.

Medford, Eagle Point, and Central Point have urban areas with suburbs, surrounded by orchards, farmland, rangeland, and other rural property. These properties serve as a buffer, keeping bears out of urban and suburban areas.

In Ashland, bears roam primarily on the west side of town, above Siskiyou Boulevard and North Main Street. Residents of these areas should exercise extreme caution with possible food sources.

Bears roam urban areas not only because of garbage cans and bird feeders, but also because some people have succumbed to the temptation to feed bears. (Photo courtesy of Ashland Police Department)

Bears roam urban areas not only because of garbage cans and bird feeders, but also because some people have succumbed to the temptation to feed bears. Feeding the bears could eventually be fatal to them.

ODFW does not practice bear capture and release. Bears that become habituated to people often become aggressive towards them. Signs of aggression include flattened ears, snapping jaws, false charging, growling, and very rarely attacks. Vargas reported that bear attacks in Oregon are extremely rare, on the order of less than one per year.

Bears that depend on humans for food or that have become aggressive can be killed. The decision is made with the owner who is dealing with the bear and the local police department. Non-lethal options such as electric fences, buzzers, and bear spray (in the right wind conditions) are usually tried first.

If the decision is made for deadly takedown, the bear will be shot.

“It’s not something we like to do.” said Vargas.

Under Oregon law, meat must be preserved and eaten. ODFW maintains a list of charities and butchers for this sometimes necessary occasion.

“Most people don’t realize it’s a really good table meal,” Vargas said.

In the event of a bear encounter, ODFW urges Oregonians to stop. Give the bear space to escape and never approach a bear for any reason. Remain calm, avoid eye contact and do not make sudden movements. Facing the bear, back away slowly.

If the bear attacks, ODFW says to retaliate. Fighting can consist of shouting, waving a jacket, arms, sticks, throwing rocks or punching, but always try to escape and keep fighting.

Most of the time, bears see people and run in the opposite direction. The Be Bear Aware campaign hopes it stays that way.

Non-emergency bear activity can be reported on Ashland’s bear reporting website,, or call ODFW at 541-826-8774.

For more information on living with bears and how to identify species or purchase bear-proof containers, visit

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