John J. Craighead, who, along with his twin brother Frank, was an early environmental advocate, passed away in September 2016. The Craighead brothers worked tirelessly to highlight the conditions of the nation’s natural areas. In fact, their work on wild rivers led directly to the 1968 National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, an important piece of legislation to protect these special waterways. But they also worked in several areas of field biology, including research on birds of prey and grizzly bears. The latter lead them into some interesting encounters.
In the 1960s they began studying the grizzly bear populations at Yellowstone National Park. Using a variety of innovative methods, from radio and satellite tracking to tranquilization, the Craigheads successfully studied over 600 grizzlies in the park and added much-needed detail to the bears’ life cycles and interactions with humans. But part of being pioneers in a field means that sometimes things don’t go as planned. In the video below, the Craigheads are attempting to tag and record information on a grizzly who has quickly recovered from the tranquilizer they used. As you can see, he is none too happy about the situation.
This is a good reminder that when visiting a national park, be safe and leave the wild animals alone. Unforeseen and unfortunate events can happen, even to experts like the Craigheads, who took important precautions to protect themselves and the bear.
To learn more about the Craigheads and their work, visit the Craighead Institute. Part of the legacy of Frank but highlighting the work of both brothers, the Craighead Institute’s mission is “to maintain healthy populations of native plants and animals along with human communities in sustainable, functioning ecosystems.” In addition, visit these resources:
- The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968) description at the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems site.
- D.R. McCullough’s 1986 article, “The Craigheads’ data on Yellowstone grizzly bear populations: relevance to current research and management” from the International Conference on Bear Research and Management, vol.6 (PDF).
- A chapter in Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History detailing the Craigheads’ contentious relationship with Yellowstone National Park management over research on the grizzly bears: Science and the Struggle for Bureaucratic Power: Grizzly Bears.
Written by Eric Dillalogue
Eric Dillalogue holds a MS in Library and Information Science and a BA in English. He has worked in a variety of roles from service industry management, academic libraries, and grant administration. He has taught courses on information literacy, web research, and developmental reading. Eric joined the Visionlearning team as a project manager in 2014.