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For his pioneering work with grizzly bears and raptors, for his conservation of wild rivers in the West, for his support of wildlife biology students and scientists, John J. Craighead is The Wildlife Society's Aldo Leopold Memorial Award winner for 1998.

Craighead, president of the Wildlife-Wildlands Institute in Missoula, was feted by family, friends and students Tuesday night during a reception at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

His was the 49th Leopold Award given by The Wildlife Society in recognition of lifetime contributions to wildlife biology.

For the 82-year-old Craighead, the contributions began as a teen-ager studying falconry with his twin brother, Frank, and co-authoring "Hawks in the Hand" and the first of many articles for National Geographic magazine, said Dan Pletscher, director of the University of Montana's wildlife biology program.

Craighead was leader of the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at UM for 25 years. In 1959, while at the university, he began a 12-year study of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, during which he established new standards for the study of large carnivores and pioneered the use of radio telemetry to track and study free-ranging grizzlies.

"John was one of the first, maybe the first, wildlife biologist to study a population of large mammals by knowing individual animals," said Jack Hogg, director of the Wildlife-Wildlands Institute. "He showed us how to take that intensive, within-a-population study of animals out into the larger landscape. A lot of us owe our careers to him."

"John literally taught me most of what I know. That's it," said Maurice Hornocker, the wildlife biologist who - after studying and working with Craighead for 10 years at UM - pioneered the study of mountain lions and founded the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho.

"I cannot over-emphasize the role he played in my professional and personal life," said Hornocker. "John Craighead taught me that research was a way of life, not a job. He taught me that there is no greater joy than creating new knowledge. He is my friend, teacher, confidante, and hunting and fishing partner."

Craighead, who will speak at a meeting of The Wildlife Society this weekend in Buffalo, N.Y., said he is particularly honored that the award bears the name of Leopold.

"Aldo Leopold made a statement once that we should think like a mountain," Craighead said. "That we should think like nature and look at the fundamentals of things. That philosophy has guided me in my work; I have listened to the voice of the mountain for most of my life."

Hornocker said the Leopold Award is a tribute to Craighead's strength of conviction and commitment to principle.

"John is very intense," Hornocker said. "He lives his credo. He is always standing on principle and fighting for what he believes."

In the 1960s, Craighead was a leader in the effort to write and secure passage of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In 1978, he founded the Craighead Wildlife-Wildland Institute in Missoula to support wildlife and wildlands research.

"His is mud and boots biology," said Hogg. "That's the essence of what we do at the institute."

"That's the essence of John," said Hornocker.

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