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Officials warn of bear in Lithia Park

More of Ashland Creek in Lithia Park should be avoided by waders, the city of Ashland announced Friday. And it also wants people to know a black bear was seen there Friday.

A warning about high bacteria levels in Ashland Creek near the children's playground issued Thursday was expanded to include all of Ashland Creek through Lithia Park.

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department announced that regular water testing found E. coli levels that exceed state safety standards. Bacteria levels regularly rise during the summer due to more people swimming in less water. Drought conditions have seen the levels spike earlier than usual this year.

Residents are urged to avoid contact with the water, especially if they have open wounds, and to avoid ingestion.

Possible causes for contamination of the creek can include waste from pets, livestock and wild animals, leaking septic systems and illegal dumping from portable toilets or recreational vehicle tanks.

The department urges residents to pick up after pets, not to dump manure, kitty litter or other waste material near creeks or storm drains and to make sure that toddlers wear swim diapers.

Health related questions can be directed to Jackson County Public Health at 541-774-8206. More information is available at www.ashlandparksandrec.org.

The department also posted notices a black bear was sighted in Lithia Park on Friday. The sighting was near the children's playground, according to a recorded message left on the department answering machine.

A bear was seen near the park bandshell in February. Sightings of bears are common in the hills upstream from the park.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife advises anyone who encounters a bear to remain calm, avoid eye contact and give it plenty of space. Leave the area immediately, but do not run (it may encourage the bear to chase you).

Hikers should make plenty of noise so they don't surprise bears.

More information is available at www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp.

To report aggressive animals or sightings, call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at 541-826-8774.

Reach reporter Ian Hand at 541-776-4464. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IanHand_DT.