Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Niemela looks at the bear after it was pulled from Bear Creek in Hawthorne Park this morning. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Bear at Hawthorne Park in Medford drowns in creek

Updated, 10:09 a.m. A bear seen wandering in downtown Medford's Hawthorne Park early today drowned in Bear Creek after wildlife biologists attempted to dart, capture and relocate what police considered a public-safety threat.

The 109-pound male, which likely was lured down Bear Creek by blackberries, was tranquilized about 8:20 a.m. by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Mark Vargas, who said his plan was to release it in the mountains and away from people.

The bear then ran into the creek and became unconscious in 2 feet of water, where it drowned under the Interstate 5 viaduct across from the Red Lion Hotel as Vargas and others fought through blackberries in an effort to rescue it, he said.

“We couldn't get to it fast enough,” Vargas said.

It was reportedly seen several times Sunday night and again this morning by joggers, Vargas said.

There were no reports of damage complaints or the bear threatening anyone, Vargas said. The area around the bear was cordoned off by Medford police, and the dart-and-relocate attempt was an alternative to shooting the bear, Vargas said.

“It's down pretty deep into Medford,” Vargas said. “You'd like to back off and let the bear go away, but you can't, really, in that (circumstance).

“That was just a bad spot for a bear,” he said.

The bear was about 2 years old, Vargas said.

— Mark Freeman

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