Jim Yoakum Memory Page

The stories and memories below have been shared by Jim's friends and colleagues.

If you would like to share your own memory of Jim, please click on this link.
Cynthia Graves Perrine: I met Jim over a decade ago in a parking lot. Those who didnít know Jim would find this an odd location to meet such a rural gent. Those who knew him would say that if you saw him in a parking lot, he was probably not far from his camper or his Labrador retriever. Jim liked to chat. That day we chatted about dogs, camping, outrageous hotel costs, and how to spend a good fall in the high desert looking for pronghorn. Whenever one saw Jim, he had something to share. And, if you were lucky, you heard quite a tale. If you werenít quite so lucky, you heard quite a lot! Jim was dedicated heart and soul to the Western Section and to our profession, and for a large part of his life he ate, breathed and slept details and minute of its operations. Through my own Section service, I was lucky to interact with Jim on a regular basis. Because Jim shunned electronic communications, I sent Jimís paper newsletter to him and he always called me with a personal Thank You that turned into a long conversation -- sometimes serious, always appreciative, and typically insightful. I always hung up the phone ďlastĒ (as recommended in 911 calls) because I wanted to make sure I collected every last drop of wisdom and experience he had to dish up. The Executive Board and its members owe many of our regular programs and documents to Jimís diligence and careful consideration of promoting momentum for the Section, and avoidance of reinvention of good things. It is my hope that our long-steeped traditions continue, and because of his excellent example and detailed records, Iím confident they will. Thanks for the service, Jim. You will be missed.

Peter Bradley: I met Dr. Yoakum in 1980 as an undergraduate student at UNR.  At that time, Jim
was already a legend in the wildlife profession.  However, I can tell you that
Jim earned the admiration and respect of a legion of students, both graduate and
undergraduate, not only due to his unrelenting defense of the sagebrush steppe
ecosystem, but because of his personal touch and benevolence when it came to
mentoring young biologists.  He was also a strong believer in the connection
between the preservation of America's remaining wilderness lands and the health
of wildlife populations and their habitats.

If I may, a short personal story that connects these strands of Jim's life:  In
1986, a wet-behind-the-ears graduate student and Western Section Newsletter
Editor for The Wildlife Society crafted and presented to the WS-TWS Board a
Position Statement for Congress that essentially recommended WS-TWS support for
the 'Nevada Wilderness Protection Bill" under debate at the time.  As you might
imagine, the room had a few vocal, misguided, bless-their-hearts,
anti-wilderness naysayers.  He certainly didn't have to do it, but Jim stood up
and simultaneously defended the student's integrity, the wisdom of the Position
Statement and then moved for a vote.  Ultimately, in 1989, Congress passed the
Act protecting 733,400 acres of some of Nevada's most precious USFS wildlife
habitat for all time from the OHVers, drillers, strip-miners, energy developers,
over-grazers and sub-dividers.

I can't help but imagine that Jim is smiling at the recounting of these
minutiae.  For me however, with potentially my career on the line (NDOW's
Director at the time was in the room as well), this was no small act of

Eric Loft: Rest in Peace- Jim.

Jim was very excited that the Department pursued the (CDFG) pronghorn antelope translocation in 1990 (think it was in 1990?) from Likely Tables to San Luis Obispo County and the Carrizo Plain -- near where he was from.  I enjoyed talking with him and admired his dedication, expertise, and interest in pronghorn as well as his interest and contributions to The Western Section.

Some "green" young biologist was quoted in the SLO paper about that translocation and that the area was "...absolute pronghorn heaven..."-- If so, hope Jim is there to watch em.

Rick Williams: I first heard of Jim Yoakum while a wildlife student at Humboldt State University in the mid-70s.  His name was mentioned numerous times by various professors when speaking of noted alumni who had accomplished great things following their graduation from HSU.  By then, Jim was widely known as the "go to" expert on anything related to pronghorns.  Beginning in 1989 and throughout most of the 90s, I had the great fortune to serve with Jim on the TWS-WS Executive Board and to see, first hand, how one of the greats of our profession carried himself.  He embodied Theodore Roosevelt's famous phrase "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far".  Jim was a steady, yet not bombastic, champion of professional ethics, Certification, and the history of our society.  His legacy of dedication to wildlife and the wildlife profession should never be forgotten.  I will miss his wry smile and strong handshake but am very grateful for the chance to have known him.

Brad Valentine: I first met Jim in the mid 1980's duirng our mutual participation in the Executive board for the Western Section.  I was pretty young and naive of the groups ways ... as I would learn were almost everyone else on the Board relative to Jim.  Sometimes coming across a bit gruff, he nearly always had something to say, always thoughtful, and ussually right.  But in side-bar and non-meeting conversations, the gruffness wained and the depth of his dedication to the wildlife profession became abundantly clear ... as did his personablness.  My respect for Jim continued to grow over the years, and I saw many qualities in him that I believed everybody including me should strive to emulate.  I am honored to have been a recipient of the Western Section's award that bears his name, but know my service to the Western Section pails relative to his.    I remember his greeting to me the last time I saw him -- identical to the first time I met him -- "Hello there, young man." I'll miss that, and thankful I got to know him.  The Western Section is much better for him.

Kent Smith:

When I was first made aware of TWS and the Western Section in the early 1970's, Jim was already an icon of sorts.  I remember him "holding court" for many many years as Section Representative to TWS Council and reminding all of us at our Section meetings about where we came from and what we represented.  This was never more apparent than during the discussions and deliberations (often heated) that ultimately led to TWS's Certification Program.  Prior to being elected Section President in the early 80's, I served as Section Newsletter Editor, replacing another Section hero, Chuck Graves, and I could always depend on Jim for some "newsworthy" items.  After being elected, I heard from Jim often as he prodded me onward, something he was never shy about.  I also had the "pleasure" of working closely with him on Golden Wildlife.  As I look back over the years and the many memories of Jim, three words come to mind...dedication, perserverance, and loyalty.  And, of these three, Jim's loyalty to the profession stands out for me the most.  If only those traits existed in all of us like they did in Jim! 

Dean Carrier: Throughout my career I spent many hours with Jim, sometimes in the field but more often in heated discussions of biological, social and political issues.  I could always count on some well thought-out opinions, and even when we didn't agree it was always friendly and we always respected each other.  I'm sorry he's gone, he was a hands-on field-savvy biologist and I'll miss him.

Steve Kohlmann:

Jim and I met at a Biennial Pronghorn meeting in the late 1990's and, prompted by my presentation,  we ended up in a bar for several hours talking about density dependence in desert ungulates. Soon after, Jim became involved with the perceived coyote "predation problem" at Hart Mountain. It wasn't long before he called me up to accompany him on a field trip to Hart Mountain, where we observed a pronghorn birth and a pair of coyotes hunting for fawns. I vividly remember the ensuing heated discussion between refuge staff and Jim in a pickup truck in a mountain downpour. Despite the personal differences, Jim never veered from a scientific view, and I remember how stoically he defended good science against populistic "management". He fought hard and fair, never resorting to personal attacks. He didn't mince words either. Even at an advanced age and failing health, Jim was a devoted advocate for pronghorn, sound science and good stewardship on public lands. His opinions and statements were not always welcome by those in power, but in the end, he was often right and even his adversaries had high respect for Jim.

One of Jim's special interests were the pronghorn populations at and around the Carrizo Plains and Antelope Valley. He initiated the annual Carrizo Plain Pronghorn meeting that always was well attended and an excellent platform for exchanging information with federal, state and university folks who all shared a common interest in pronghorn and its habitat. Jim's personality, his unwavering commitment and his deep love for pronghorn and their habitat left a an indelible mark on all who attended.

Jim was a hard worker. He always had some project or paper he was working on, and his energy seemed endless. I was fortunate to work with him on several projects he had taken on as a consultant and we met frequently at his home to work together. At age 84, Jim learned to work with "Windows" after his ancient computer finally quit, and he agonized over transitioning his extensive pronghorn bibliography from WordPerfect 5.1! He had an amazing memory and knew the literature better than anyone I ever met. Just a couple years ago we drove from his home in Verdi to Elko to conduct a habitat survey Jim had done for decades, monitoring changes in a sagebrush community used by pronghorn. Walking through rough terrain and sleet, Jim fell a couple times, but he kept on going, despite a bad hip and obvious discomfort. His toughness and selfless engagement was exemplary.

Jim loved to joke. I remember my last telephone conversation with him, when Ė out of mischief- he pretended not to know who I was. We both had a good laugh, something Jim loved to do. He was also very generous and giving. One day, at his house, we walked by his old canoe parked under the porch. In an instant, he grabbed my arm and said: "Do you have a canoe for your girls?", referring to my daughters then age 4 and 6. I said "no". "Then you need this canoe to take these girls out and show them some wildlife" he said and told me to take his canoe home with me. The "USS Yoakum" has given us countless hours of exploration, fishing and adventure, and I know that's exactly what Jim wanted.

Jim leaves a big void of scientific expertise and knowledge about a species few today seem to care about. But more importantly, Jim's deep commitment and caring for sound stewardship, even when it was unpoplar with the agencies, is becoming a rarity in our profession. He leaves a legacy few can match.

Don Armentrout: I met Jim in 1976, my first year with the BLM.  Jim informed me that because my job title was Range Conservationist (Wildlife) that I was not a true Wildlfe Biologist.  I informed him that titles didn't make the profession.  We got it changed to Widllife Management Biologist the next year.  Jim and I spared for a couple years trying to figure each other out.  We became good friends sharing meals at each others homes for many years.  Jim was always very curtious to women around him.  He was class.  One evening Jim was at our house showing slides from his trip to the Gallopagoes Islands.  Everything was flowing along until he stopped and announced that the next slide showed a very rare event.  It was a slide of three blue-footed boobies standing side-by-side on a rock.  Jim, giggling to himself, said it is three boobies in a row.  He was still giggling when he left.  My wife, Rick Brigham and I looked at each other and wondered where did he get that groaner?  Jim mentored me on many things about being a professional wildlife biologist and sometimes about life.  If Jim got going on too long I would stop him by telling him I didn't think I could take too much advice from a man who spent most of his life studying turbo-charged goats.  That always got a smaile and a change of subject.  A screenwiter wrote a phrase that I can apply to Jim.  "It is always surprising how little of life is made up of meaningful moments.  Some are over almost before they begin.  Althougt they shine a light on history which makes them unforgettable.  I will never forget Jim Yoakum.

David Brown:

I didnít get to really know Jim Yoakum until relatively late in our careers.  I knew of him of course.  As a wildlife biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department I would have occasion to give a status report or make some other minor contribution to our understanding of pronghorn antelope at one of the biennial Pronghorn Workshops. Jim and his partner in pronghorn, Bart OíGara, would always be present at these events, and could always be counted on to give insightful accounts of their latest investigations into their pet species. Bartís papers would usually be on the animalís physiology, Jimís on habitat or behavior. It was at one of these presentations that I learned that Jim and I shared an important mentor, Bill Graf, my major professor at San Jose State.

      My first real meeting with Jim was after I retired from the game department and was teaching wildlife biology at Arizona State University. It was the summer of 2002 and Jim had been hired by the Arizona Wildlife Society to evaluate habitat conditions for the stateís premier pronghorn population on Anderson Mesa. Intimately familiar with the area, I had my own opinions as to what the problem was, and was most interested in what Jim had to say. Coyote control had failed to have any lasting effect on this pronghorn population and something else was at work. The AWF thought it was overuse by livestock. My investigations had convinced me that the problem was overuse by livestock and elk.

     Jim, unfamiliar with the areaís history was cautious and objective as was his way. Once his mind was made up, however, he was adamant. His week long investigation was conclusive.  There, in the field, sitting on a camp chair at the end of our deliberations, he pronounced, ďTo have any improvement in pronghorn fawn recruitment, you must have high quality, nutritious forage.  Such forage is lacking on Anderson Mesa.Ē  His words said volumes. No one else could have put it more succinctly. Jim always prided himself on using the right words to describe a situation.

Sitting there, with his balding head and block-like frame, Jim reminded me of Erich von Stroheim in ďLa Grande Illusion  Authoritative, yet dated, Jim represented a time when the basis for wildlife management decisions was habitat. I liked him immediately.