Frank Cooper Craighead, Jr.

class of 1935


At Western, Frank and his twin, John, were active in sports, Phi Beta Rho members, and class leaders. Frank served as Treasurer of their February class. They were the twins few of their classmates could tell apart.

 And they remained together in pursuing their joint interest in and devotion to the world of nature and to its wildlife. Their parents both worked for the Department of Agriculture; their father as a forest entomologist and their mother as a biologist technician. Both boys became world renowned experts in wildlife studies and advocates of active wildlife conservation programs.

 After high school, they drove West to seek out, photograph, and capture hawks and falcons, making their first visit to Jackson Hole and the grandeur of the Rockies where they determined to make the land of their career in conservation. Both graduated in 1939 from Pennsylvania State University and then to the University of Michigan for MS degrees in Ecology and Wildlife Management.

 WWII interrupted (but did not derail) their studies. They were asked by the US Navy to set up a survival training program, and their work produced the Navyís manual How to Survive on Land and Sea. They trained men to survive in the tropics and later trained OSS agents in survival tactics for service behind the lines in Europe and Russia.

 Frank had married during the war and in 1946 both he and John returned to get PhDs from Michigan U.; their dissertations were published as a book Hawks, Owl, and Wildlife. Together they left for Jackson Hole where they built identical cabins but in the 1950ís began to find slightly different career paths in their chosen field. Frank chose to work outside academia, first at the Desert Game Range near Las Vegas, Nevada, and then with the US Forest Service in Washington, D.C. in charge of Forest Recreation Research, though he resigned in 1959 after the Service refused to transfer him out West, as they had promised.

 Then the brothers paths merged again. In 1959, for Yellowstone National Park, they began the 12-year study of grizzly bears for which they became so greatly renowned. One of Frankís notable contributions was his development of the use of radio transmitters to track their movements and thus identify their lifestyles. The result was his popular and acclaimed book, Track of the Grizzly (1979). The ended their study only when Park Service restrictions made it necessary and they had concluded that the Service was covering up the danger to the bears of the Parkís pro-visitor policies.

 During these years, they also published a Peterson Guide on wildflowers, four National Geographic articles & two Geographic TV specials, and four lecture films. Over his career, Frank published over 70 technical reports and over 40 articles on their research, well justifying their reputation as the inspiration for a generation of wildlife biologists and for bringing to the American public to concept of conservation. He founded the Craighead Environmental Research Insitute.

 Esther, Frankís wife and partner since 1943, died in 1980. He married Shirley Cocker in 1987 but in the 1980ís he had begun showing signs of Parkinsonís disease. Even in retirement, remained as active as he could. He died at his home in Moose, Wyoming on October 21, 2001.


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Updated May 10, 2004 09:00 PM