DFW: ‘This is the time of year they roam around a little bit more’
By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news
Black bears have again been seen in Jackson County, including Ashland.
Chris Shelton, assistant wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Southwest Oregon office, said during the fall that black bears are often found “fattening up” before denning for the winter.
“This is the time of year they roam around a little bit more,” Shelton said.
Although some black bears have been seen in Phoenix and Medford, Shelton said the largest numbers are typically found in the Ashland area. So far, however, the numbers of black bear reports are well below 2022, when their natural food supplies, such as acorns, were less abundant in the higher elevation. Last year there were more than 350 reports of black bears, while about 115 have been reported this year.
“While natural food sources are plentiful this year in Jackson County, bears don’t turn down free food,” Shelton said.
Shelton said ODFW is receiving reports of black bears raiding garbage cans and backyard chicken feed bins. So people, especially those living in the wildland-urban interface, need to be “bear-wise.”
- Secure chicken feed and other livestock feed.
- Place garbage cans out just before scheduled pick-up days.
- Keep pet food indoors.
- Remove bird feeders.
- Clean up fruit under fruit trees.
- Keep barbecue grills clean or in a garage.
- Never intentionally feed bears.
“The deterrent is for people to be more proactive,” Shelton said. “Once bears find a taste for garbage, pet food and other human food sources, they can quickly become habituated and a safety risk to people. The best way to keep bears and people safe is to prevent bears from getting these food rewards.”
Meghan Dugan, ODFW public affairs spokeswoman, said black bear reports are common in the fall because, “They’re coming down from the forest to lower elevations. Then they wander into town and get into garbage and chicken feed and livestock feed. It’s our annual reminder to residents to be careful.”
People who encounter a bear are urged to “Stop. Never approach a bear at any time for any reason. If you see bear cubs, leave the area.”
As Dugan notes, “We tell people to please leave them alone.”
Along with using caution, other recommendations include:
- Give any bear you encounter a way to escape.
- Stay calm and do not run or make sudden movements. Instead, face the bear and slowly back away.
- Don’t make eye contact.
- Don’t run because it may encourage the bear to chase you.
- In the unlikely event you are attacked, fight back, shout, be aggressive; use rocks, sticks and hands.
Non-emergency bear activity in Ashland can be reported through the city’s bear reporting website at gis.ashland.or.us/bear/, or by calling ODFW directly at 541-826-8774. If there is an immediate threat to human health and safety, dial 911. For more information on living with bears, visit myodfw.com/articles/help-keep-bears-wild.