William Edgar CLARK

CLARK, William Edgar

William E. Clark 'Bill', former Coordinator of the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory (Lab) of the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), passed away suddenly on December 9, 2013 in Lincoln, CA. He was 72, and well-known for his work accomplishments, positive outlook and sense of humor.

Bill was born in San Antonio, Texas. He spent his youth in the West Texas sandhills, getting what he called a superb education at Crane High School. He married his high school sweetheart from Crane, Patricia (Pat) Edwards, after graduation in 1960. He served in the Army from 1962-66, as a laboratory technician at William Beaumont Army Hospital in El Paso.

He and Pat parted and he moved to California. Shortly after, Bill joined the Lab as a seasonal aide sampling water and fish. He and Pat reunited. His job became permanent as his family was growing. Daughter Tana was born in 1967 and his son, Bret, in 1969.

The original Lab was located on the Sacramento State campus. While working he earned his Bachelor's degree in microbiology, applying what he learned to his work. In 1978, he and Pat divorced. By then his job had broadened to include wildlife disease investigations and methods for immobilizing wildlife.

In 1983, he married Jeanne Walsh of San Francisco, a nature writer who often joined him on DFG field work. During his more than 30-year career at the Lab, Bill helped develop sampling protocols for many species. He and Lab colleagues were known nationwide for their innovations in wildlife capture and handling techniques for elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, marine mammals, avian species, etc.

Bill designed traps, ranging from small to 200-foot enclosures. He helped develop capture methods involving drugs and the net gun. In field work, he handled everything from small details to the news media. Bill was at home hanging out of a helicopter, using a dart gun or net gun to immobilize wildlife. He also loved and used horses in some field work. During his career, he helped safely capture thousands of animals.

One of his greatest contributions was teaching. The Lab's Wildlife Capture and Restraint classes drew nationwide attention. Bill helped train hundreds of biologists, wardens, veterinary students, and others; not only did Bill teach, he gave people an opportunity to 'do.' He was admired for his directness, willingness to do any job, and calming way with wildlife.

Bill suffered a disabling brain aneurysm in 1995. Bill and Jeanne worked diligently on therapy for years, shaping a new life for Bill. He retired from DFG in 1998, receiving multiple commendations from state agencies and organizations for his achievements. Although the two divorced in 2006, they remained close and Jeanne provided constant support until his death.

He also received caring help and companionship from Marie Rucker, who arranged hiking, billiards, meals, social gatherings, and the other daily activities he so enjoyed. He always treasured his regular visits with son Bret, and granddaughter, Kira.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Woody and Flossie Clark, and daughter, Tana. In addition to those mentioned above, he is remembered by his sister Marilyn Pittman and nieces, Michelle Vitanza and Leslie Estrada, all from Texas, and many friends.

A Celebration of Life will be held in the coming months. A scholarship has been established in Bill's name at Sacramento State. Those who wish may send tax-deductible checks to: University Foundation at Sacramento State, Attn: Director of Major and Planned Gifts, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6030. Write on the memo line: for William E. Clark Memorial Scholarship.
Published in The Sacramento Bee on Jan. 5, 2014