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Editorial: The wild things are here

An Ashland couple who filmed a family of bears in their garage over the weekend did some things right, and were fortunate that Mama Bear kept her distance.

The ursine visitors to the home of Chris and Susan Hearn early Saturday weren’t the only animals to stray out of the forest and into town in recent days. A cougar was spotted about 1:30 a.m. Monday on Iowa and Idaho streets not far above the boulevard. That sighting followed an earlier cougar encounter on Hargadine Street in March.

None of these incidents is unheard of, although cougars and bears are less frequent visitors than the ubiquitous deer that plague gardens and landscapes throughout Ashland. While deer can get aggressive, the big cats and the bears are potentially much more dangerous.

The Hearns, alerted to the intrusion of four bear cubs by their dogs, wisely shut the dogs in a bedroom, preventing what could have been a violent encounter. The cubs, it turned out, were after cat food stored in metal garbage cans, which they quickly opened.

Mama Bear stood watch, and shooed her offspring out of the garage after they had finished dining. She was none-too-pleased with the humans shooting video of her from the front stairs, but did not charge.

That episode and the two cougar sightings are reminders that many Ashland homes are very close to wildlife habitat, and it’s important to use caution if you encounter wild animals in town. Make sure pet food is stored where animals cannot reach it, and keep garages and outside doors secure at all times, but especially at night.