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Medford officials urge hikers, cyclists to take precautions after a bear and her cub are seen in Prescott Park

A black bear sow and cub have taken up residence in Medford's Prescott Park, causing consternation among some visitors but likely posing no direct threat to hikers there, authorities said.

The bear, a female possibly as large as 300 pounds, has been seen along trails up Roxy Ann Peak, startling at least one bicyclist.

The bear went one direction and the guy on the bike went the other, says Dwayne Stoltz, a parks technician who has seen the sow and cub.

City parks officials have posted signs warning visitors of the bruins, which now join the list of cougars, bobcats, black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, foxes, rabbits and other critters known to reside in the wildland park overlooking east Medford.

We have all kinds of things up there, says city Parks Director Scott Archer. That's one of the cool things about that park.

While bears are commonplace in Oregon's rural and backwoods areas, there has not been a valid physical injury from bears in recent history, says Don Whittaker, a biologist and bear expert for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

But black bear attacks have been documented elsewhere.

A black bear attacked and injured a rafter Wednesday in a remote Green River canyon in Utah. It is the same area where a bear last year attacked an Oregon teenager, biting the boy's head and neck while trying to drag him out of his sleeping bag.

While such attacks have not been replicated here, Oregonians certainly can have closer-than-comfortable interactions with bears, particularly sows in the spring, Whittaker says.

You get between mom and her babies, in my experience with my wife, that's not a good place to be, Whittaker says.

The Prescott bear represents a situation that repeats itself in Oregon each spring as bruin sows emerge from their dens with newborns.

It's not just an issue there, says Mark Vargas, an ODFW biologist in Central Point. It's an issue statewide.

If hikers spy bear cubs, the best thing to do is walk backward ' don't run ' along the route you had taken and leave the area, Vargas says. Also, don't separate from groups, he says.

The best way to avoid such an encounter is to make a little noise while hiking, Vargas says. Sows will hear you and whisk their cubs away from the trail before you get there.

I tell people to be concerned because we live in an area where there are large carnivores, Vargas says. But don't panic. Just give them some space.

A sign posted at the gate to Medford?s Prescott Park warns hikers of a new and possibly hazardous addition to the popular city park. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven