TWISP, Wash. -- Biologist making their way through the dark woods in the North Cascades, know they are not alone.
Are grizzly bears back in Washington?
This time of night, dusk is when everything gets active, bears, cougars and wolves, said Scott Fitkin with the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife.
There are plenty of glowing eyes out here. The biologists are checking one of several remote motion detecting camerashidden in the Methow back country.
This is bear patrol and the cameras are doing their jobs.
That's a fairly stout bear, I bet he left a sample, said Fitkin looking at one of their motion detecting cameras.
The nocturnal visitor left a sample of its hair on barbed wire surrounding an irresistible baitpile of blended fish and road kill. It's not a grizzly.
I started my career 22 years ago chasing ghost bears around the North Cascades so I feel like I've kind of come full circle now, said Fitkin.
Cell phone photos taken by a hiker in the North Cascades National Park have brought the ghosts to life.
A large group of backpackers have been coming out here for year, but this is the first time they got the grizzly talk.
It makes me a little more nervous especially with a big group and having the kids along, said one park visitor.
But rangers explain encountering a grizzly would be even more rare than the photo finally taken of one.
Now that one's been sighted, it's just more like proof they really are here. Until now it's been almost the same as Sasquatch, said Park Ranger Abigail Sussman.
You talk to a lot of people out here though and they'll tell you they may not have a picture, but they've been seeing grizzlies in these mountains for years.
And he stood straight up and started swaying his head back and forth, he was smelling the wind and he was trying to pick me up, and as he was doing that I turned around and almost ran over the guy behind me, said Michael Rothgeb.
Ranch hand Michael Rothgeb has seen a lot of bears and is convinced he was running from a grizzly.
Video from the a disturbed camera indicates a curious bear not only knocked it off the tree and somehow removed the strap.
Bears are very smart. They've been referred to as the chimpanzees of North America. They're arguably out smartest land animal, said Fitkin.
State fish and wildlife biologist are expanding their network of remote cameras. Especially after a lone hiker with a cell phone snapped what they have been waiting for years to get.
I know it's amazing and we go out there for months, all summer long working our butts off and this guy's just hiking along and gets it, said Fitkin.
The photos give Fitkin even more reason to believe his career is coming full circle.
I tell myself I am not going to retire until I see a grizzly bear in the North Cascades, said Fitkin.
Was the bear in the photo a resident or just a Canadian visitor? Only time will tell. But no matter how people feel about it, the North Cascades is no stranger to the grizzly. Hunters chased them away for half a century, but the deep, dark forests seem a little too quiet without them.
Any grizzly bears that do wander into Washington state's North Cascades or make a home there will be protected by both the Federal and State Endangered Species Act.
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