Mountain cats, chipmunks ... and wolves? Oh, my!

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What better way to catch the comings and goings of wildlife than by using a slew of trail cameras?

Kennewick residents Jim and Connie DeFries do just that at their property. They were raised in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington and have spent many hours there spanning the last 50 years. For the past 10 years, they have owned a place up Biscuit Ridge Road that includes a cabin. It's out of Dixie about 10 miles north of Walla Walla, Jim said.

He's been reading about reported wolf activity with great interest and has documented several of their appearances in his neighborhood.

Jim said wolf activity was captured in two photographs that were taken by a trail camera belonging to a neighbor who has a seasonal cabin also on Biscuit Ridge Road, Jim said. He also has a few pictures of two black wolves that were taken at the same time.

In November 2010, Jim and Connie saw three wolves running on the hillside approximately 1 mile from their cabin.

"We have a 3-mile canyon view from our cabin porch, where we see lots of turkeys, deer, elk, bear, bobcats, lynx, cougars, a moose now and again, and now wolves."

The couple took the wolf print pictures in January this year. "We had three definite sets of three different animals. Numerous prints that circled our cabin and through the woods following deer tracks," Jim said.

There are eight trail cameras set up in the woods, usually spring through late fall.

"I have been following the newspaper articles about the wolves in the Blue Mountains. I believe there are more wolves than is being reported and this is going to be a major problem for human safety, not to mentioned the decimation of deer and elk herds in the entire Blue Mountain Range," he said via e-mail.

The DeFrieses have seen lynx and lynx kittens on Biscuit Ridge Road. Authorities are not yet on board with some of their sightings, however. Jim was told there are no lynx around there. "It was the same response when the wolves showed up two years ago, 'it's wolf hybrids, there aren't any wolves around here.' "

"My biggest concern is safety to human life. I take numerous hikes through the woods in our area and see numerous bear and cougars. I am forever alert for contact with them, but I believe wolves running in packs are going to be of a great concern when it comes to public safety and no one will do anything until someone gets killed, and then the response will be 'no wolf has ever attacked or killed a human before,' and then it's going to be too late."

Meanwhile, Judi Kelley saw two wolves when she took her dogs for a run off Eastside Road, close to Telephone Pole Road, in the Milton-Freewater area a day or two before she read an article about wolves in the U-B.

She was on Telephone Pole road, where the pavement ends and runs into Nursery Annex Road. That particular day she ran east on Birch Creek Road, then took a right onto Spofford Road. She was "almost to the end of Nursery Annex Road, which runs into ... Telephone Pole Road, when I looked over to my right and saw two BIG wolves just kind of crouched down laying in the dirt farm field."

Shocked by the sight, she made the whole loop again to double check what she just saw. "Sure enough, the two wolves had moved some. They went closer to Nursery Annex Road, and at that time I had only seen one wolf, and turned onto Telephone Pole Road, where the other wolf came running from the other side of the road, right in front of me, from a horse pasture."

"I couldn't believe it. They were two of the biggest wolves, I'd seen. They did not look hungry, or like they were starved for food. And I know they were not coyotes. I know the difference between the two."

Her experience telling the difference came from time spent in the mountains often with another person who went hunting up there. "So I do know the difference. But I had been taking my dogs out there running, weeks prior to that. And about a week before I saw the wolves, I noticed a couple of black cows that looked like they had been out of their pasture for awhile, even on the day I saw the wolves. So I was kind of nervous even for them.

"When I saw that the one wolf come running from a nearby horse pasture, I didn't like the looks of that.

"I was amazed. You would have thought they were scrawny, mangy, hungry-looking wolves, but they weren't. They looked like two big healthy, scary ones.

And on that day, Judi added that "all I was worried about was getting my dogs back in my truck." She returned more recently to keep a lookout. "I always keep my eyes wide open."

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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