James Donovan Yoakum
June 14, 1926
November 20, 2012
Born in Templeton, California, James D. Yoakum enlisted in the Navy at 17, serving from 1944-1947 and bearing witness to the last and toughest battles in the Pacific, including Iwo Jima. His time in service was a short part of his life, but Jim always said that it was the most important thing he ever did, giving him an education, a career and a place to call home. After seeing the devastation of war, Jim looked for refuge in wilderness and wildlife. The first purchase he made after he returned to civilian life was buying a saddle, and taking a job as a fire lookout in the back country of Big Sur, California. At the end of that summer, he attended Humboldt State College in Arcata, California, where he studied the Roosevelt Elk of the area. After graduating in 1953, Jim went on to Oregon State University, where he did research on pronghorn in the Lakeview, Oregon area. During this time, Jim's professional personality began to be forged, making a name for himself raising orphaned animals, including a pair of bobcats both named "Rufus." After graduating with a Masters Degree in 1957, Jim was hired by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the very first wildlife biologist hired by the agency. During his career with the BLM from 1958-1986, Jim was a stalwart advocate for wildlife and wildlife education, ruffling a feather here and there with steadfast advocacy for all things wild, but still managing to make lifelong friends wherever he went. He was first assigned to the BLM station in Ely, Nevada and then Reno for the duration of his career. He traveled the world with an interest in studying, photographing and advocating for wildlife. Up until his death Jim poured his heart into the study and advocacy of pronghorn. Jim co-authored "Pronghorn: Ecology and Management," a comprehensive and definitive 903 page book which represents a monumental bookend to his love of wildlife and wild places, and a solid foundation for those who will follow.
Memorial contributions may be sent to "Friends of Nevada Wilderness" http://www.nevadawilderness.org/ where funds will be used to support pronghorn research and habitat protection.
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Published by The Reno Gazette Journal and Lyon County News Leader on Dec. 16, 2012.