EAST WENATCHEE — Bruce Hosfeld has become more than a buddy to some of the friends who camp together near Colville every November during whitetail hunting season.
He’s their inspiration.
With digital photos in hand of the bucks he’s captured on seven remote cameras before hunting season starts, Hosfeld offers proof that the deer — even if elusive, nocturnal and smart enough to stay out of sight — are out there.
“I stay for the full two weeks, and if you’re lucky, you get to see a buck or a few deer. It’s easy to get discouraged,” Hosfeld said. “So I show them these pictures and say, ‘Here’s what’s out here,’ and the guys get really excited,” he said.
Hosfeld has also noticed trends. When he started taking remote camera photographs, it was uncommon for him to photograph a moose. “Now, every one of my cameras will have a moose on it,” he said.
He found out early on that bears like to mess with remote cameras. His very first camera ended up on the ground. When he developed the film, the first picture was of a bear’s ears, the second was taken from in his mouth, and the third shot was taken from the ground, looking up. Now he straps cameras to a tree, locks them with a chain and secures them with duct tape.
The nonprofit group Conservation Northwest also wants to know what’s out there. For the past 10 years, it has worked with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to document wildlife using remote cameras.
The organization started using remote cameras to try to document grizzly bears, but soon expanded it to include many other species, said Jasmine Minbashian, the group’s special project director.
She said placing and retrieving remote cameras is by far their most popular volunteer program.
“People get out there every year and put cameras in some pretty far-flung places. And they love it,” she said.
Jen Watkins, project director of the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, said the cameras sometimes document rare animals in places that surprise the biologists.
But perhaps more importantly, she said, they help people understand just how many animals depend on the land.
“They’re putting a face to the landscape that nobody sees. When we go on a hike, we can discover the mountains, the river or the trees. But we rarely see the wildlife,” she said.
Last year, 15 volunteer teams set up about 40 cameras, which took thousands of digital images. The images will be sorted through this winter and will a report is planned for the spring.
If the results are anything like 2009, there will be hundreds of individual animals and dozens of species, from the most frequent deer, elk, and black bear to the more elusive fox, moose, and pine marten.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512