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Table Rocks to host early hike series

The Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy are poised to launch their third season of winter hikes atop the Table Rocks as a way of jump-starting the popular spring hike series slated to open in April.

Hikers will meet at the designated trailhead of either Upper or Lower Table Rock for a 2.5– to 4.5-mile roundtrip hike up moderate trails that each rise about 800 feet from the trailhead.

The winter series kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, with a hike up Upper Table Rock to discover the role water plays in the ecology there, including the role of the ever-changing vernal pools on top of the mesas. Hikers will be able to see some of the federally protected vernal pool fairy shrimp, as well as other small invertebrates that thrive in the pool.

A 10 a.m. outing Saturday, March 3, will focus on lichen on Lower Table Rock, where a botanist will introduce participants to lichens, bryophytes and terrestrial algae. The hike is also billed as a way to see early-blooming wildflowers.

The series concludes Saturday, March 24, with a 9 a.m. hike on Upper Table Rock that is billed as a family-suitable hike that includes an introduction to wildflower identification, geology, wildlife, ecology and the cultural history of Upper Table Rock.

Dubbed "Catch a Rainbow," the hike will highlight the varying colors of nature there.

Details of the annual spring hike series will be revealed in March, according to BLM.

Bathroom facilities are available only at the trailhead, and no pets or vehicles are allowed on the trail.

The hikes are free to the public, but space is limited, so registration is required. To get more information and to register online, see https://TableRockHikes2018.eventbrite.com or call the Medford District BLM at 541-618-2200 weekdays during regular business hours.

Spring bear tags running out

The deadline for applying for spring bear hunts throughout Oregon is Saturday, but those still eyeing a southwest Oregon tag are way too late.

All 4,400 tags for the popular southwest Oregon hunt were sold last month during the first-come, first-served tag sale, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The southwest Oregon hunt is the only spring black bear hunt sold in Oregon on the first-come, first-served basis, and it regularly sells out before the hunt, which runs April 1 through May 31 in five southwest Oregon counties, including Jackson, Josephine and Curry.

Tags went on sale Dec. 1 and sold steadily. Typically the final tags are sold the first week in February.

The rest of Oregon's spring bear hunts are controlled hunts, and applications for the various hunts are due Saturday. Applications can be made at point-of-sale locations as well as online at www.dfw.state.or.us.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.