Updated 11:40 a.m. with response from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
WILDLIFE WATCHING -- For the second consecutive year, a Spokane man's motion-activated trail camera has captured images of a wolf in Mount Spokane State Park, confirming sightings of wolves and wolf tracks that nordic skiers have been reporting with more frequency for several years.
The image above was captured at 11:58 a.m. on March 30 by a trail cam set up by Hank Seipp of Western Wildlife Conservation. Seipp said he just retrieved the images this week "because I don't ski." Most of the snow has finally melted. The camera was set up just outside of the downhill ski area, he said.
Seipp, who put out a trail cam that photographed a darker wolf last summer near the nordic trails, also snapped recent photos of tracks in the mud and scats almost surely from wolves. Rumors of wolf pups showing up this year have been circulating but no confirmation has been made.
"We have not been able to confirm any pack activity at Mount Spokane despite the fact that we have been running cameras in that area for a couple of years now," Trent Roussin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist. "We do occasionally get a photo of a disperser traveling through, but have yet to document multiple individuals traveling together or consistent use of the area, both of which are indicators of any potential pack activity.
"With that said, we are always interested in any information we can gather regarding wolf activity in areas without confirmed packs though."
Wolves are naturally recovering historic range in Washington as they move in from Idaho, Oregon and Canada and spread out from the many confirmed packs in Washington, with the bulk of them in the northeastern corner of the state.
Steve Christensen, Mount Spokane State Park manager, reacted to last year's wolf photo by looking at the positive side: "Now there's one more reason for people to keep their dogs on leash while in the park."
Hikers hitting the trails -- with their dogs on leash as park rules require -- might still consider carrying bear spray for the remote possibility of a wolf encounter. Wolves have been known to be aggressive toward dogs.
The photo above serves as another warning for people living in the Mount Spokane foothills areas to be more proactive and protective of their pets and domestic animals. Information can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
“We have not had any confirmed wolf depredations around Mount Spokane, and really haven’t gotten many, if any, reports of any problems caused by wolves,” Roussin said.
“I think it is safe to say that wolves from both Washington and Idaho could occasionally be roaming in Mount Spokane State Park. We know that dispersers can disperse at any time of the year, and could really be anywhere.”
Meanwhile, WDFW staffers apparently are responding today to private land in Ferry County where two calves reportedly have been killed, possibly by wolves or other predators.