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Bear euthanized after trolling Ashland neighborhood for food

ASHLAND — State and federal officials Wednesday captured and killed a black bear that had been trolling homes near Lithia Park for food, one of up to a dozen bears brazenly drawn to town in search of easy food and causing conflicts, authorities said.

The bear, which had repeatedly climbed onto the porch of a house, was trapped by federal Wildlife Services agents on Hillcrest Street Wednesday morning and later euthanized by Oregon fish and wildlife biologists at their Central Point office.

The bear was a 2- or 3-year-old sow that had not yet produced cubs, according to ODFW.

Bears have generated 29 complaints inside Ashland city limits since March, often for targeting garbage, compost and bird feeders, or showing aggressive behavior toward humans.

“This would be great if it’s the last bear we kill in Ashland, but we need the public’s help,” said Steve Niemela, ODFW’s Rogue District wildlife biologist.

The agency, working with Wildlife Services and Ashland police, has stepped up a program to convince residents to not put out garbage until just before pickup, never feed bears, and remove other outside food sources such as bird feeders, pet food and barbecue grills.

Bears can quickly become a human-safety problem if they get habituated to human food, which has become a chronic problem this spring in Ashland, Niemela said.

ODFW and the city are planning a mailing to 500 homes in the most bear-prone areas of town to warn people of aggressive bears this year and implore them to help be part of the solution and not add to the problem.

“We’re trying everything we can to get the message out that a fed bear is a dead bear,” Niemela said.

“It’s a pretty big issue,” he said. “It’s not just this one bear.”

Ashland’s location at the edge of a forest means it will always have some sort of infiltration by black bears, Niemela said.

Often it was in the cover of night. But this year problems have occurred during daylight hours and included bears confronting people with such aggressive behavior as clicking their teeth, Niemela said.

“The last thing we want to do is kill a bear,” Niemela said. “We have a safety concern. We’re trying to make it safer for the bears and people.”

Wildlife Services has a non-lethal conflict and avoidance specialist helping diminish conflicts in Ashland, Niemela said.

For those who encounter a black bear, do not approach it, give it space and avoid eye contact, according to ODFW. Also, stay calm and don’t run away. If attacked, fight back aggressively, the agency advised.

A 72-year-old man and his dog were attacked by a black bear Sunday in Lane County. The man and dog were hiking near their home in Creswell when the dog was attacked by a bear. When the man tried to scare the bear away, the bear attacked the man, police said.

A bear matching the animal’s description was later shot and killed by wildlife officials. The man and dog were treated for their injuries and released.

“This was a very serious incident and the victim took the right steps by first trying to scare the bear off and then fighting back when he was attacked,” Brian Wolfer, ODFW South Willamette Watershed Manager, said in a statement Monday.

Ashland residents can report bear activity in Ashland through the city’s problem reporting website at gis.ashland.or.us/bear or call ODFW at 541-826-8774. Those experiencing an immediate threat should call 911, biologists said.

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

Since the beginning of March, ODFW has documented numerous complaints about bears inside city limits, including aggressive actions, nuisance behaviors, and loss of wariness. ODFW does not believe the bear photographed April 3 in Ashland is the one that was killed. ODFW photo