WILDWORKS REMEMBERS ERIC YORK
May 2, 1970 - November 2, 2007
The Nature of Wildworks lost a dear friend and colleague, Eric C. York, on November 2, 2007. Eric was found deceased in his residence at Grand Canyon National Park where he was working as a biologist. He had called in sick to work shortly after performing a necropsy on a mountain lion. Eric never called in sick and when his co-workers went to check on him he was unresponsive. It was discovered that Eric had contacted pneumonic plague from the lion who later tested positive for the disease. Eric was 37 years old.
Wildworks first met Eric in 2003 when he called us to see if we might like to participate in the radio-collaring study that was being conducted with the mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. He was tracking cougars in the area and he wanted to use our resident mountain lions to test for scent lure preferences. The scent lures were to be posted on bits of carpeting along trails frequented by wildlife in hopes that mountain lions would rub against the scent leaving behind hair with their individual DNA.
So Eric and his box of lures showed up at Wildworks. The three inch squares of carpeting were attached to a plate with small teeth to pierce the carpeting and snag the lion’s hair. Since mountain lions hunt visually, not by scent, we were not sure the scent lures were going to work. Not even catnip had ever rated more than a bored sniff from Phoenix, the male mountain lion. But once Eric smeared the carpet with “silent partner”, an old fur trader’s recipe made from bobcat glands, Phoenix got up to investigate and rub his cheek against it.
Eric was instrumental in forming a partnership between The Nature of Wildworks and The National Park Service through arranging our first joint program held at NPS headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA. Phoenix the mountain lion attended as ambassador and Eric presented the details of the puma tracking study to the public.
Eric was a Biologist/ Human Interaction Park Ranger with the National Park Service at Grand Canyon National Park. His work at Grand Canyon focused primarily on monitoring the ways in which mountain lions use the park and surrounding lands, including the ways in which the lions interact with humans and how human infrastructure affects them. In addition to his work at Grand Canyon, Eric made many significant contributions to wildlife research and conservation. He specialized in carnivore studies, particularly focusing on cat species, and was a leader in research capture methods and techniques. His research led him to many areas throughout the country and around the world, including Maine, Alaska, Santa Monica National Recreation Area in Southern California, Pakistan, Nepal and Chile, where he earned the respect of colleagues and worked tirelessly to conserve wildlife. Eric held a Bachelors of Science from the University of Maine-Orono and a Masters Degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Massachusetts. Eric was an integral member of the National Park Service and Grand Canyon communities and will be missed dearly by friends and family. He is survived by his parents. Tony and Launie York of Shelburne, MA, sister, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
A ceremony celebrating his life was held at Grand Canyon National Park on Thursday, November 15th. The ceremony was held at sunset at Yaki Point on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Speakers at the ceremony included Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty, Director of the National Park Service Mary Bomar, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin, National Park Service Wildlife Biologist Elaine Leslie, Ranger Lori Rome, Felidae Conservation Fund President and Director Zara McDonald, and Nature of Wildworks President and Executive Director Mollie Hogan. Mollie, accompanied by her sister and brother-in-law , sang “The Wild Hills of Home” a song that was written by Mollie for the mountain lions in The Santa Monica Mountains and inspired by Eric’s work with the cats.
An additional memorial ceremony will be held at the Peter Strauss Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains for his friends and colleagues on November 29, 2007 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm.