Friends of the Craigheads, Edgar Reed, John and Vicki Swift
Frank C. Craighead: A Tribute
— by Richard Howard
Frank Cooper Craighead Jr. was born in
Washington, D. C. on August 14, 1914 to Dr. Frank
C. Craighead and Carolyn Craighead. Frank, Sr.
was a forest entomologist for the Department of
Agriculture and Carolyn was a biologist technician.
Frank Jr. had a twin brother, John with whom he
did just about everything together. Their family
history is full of stories about their ability to n-
ish sentences for each other, and come to each
others defense. Their younger sister, Jean, was
born three years later and shared many of their
As teenagers, Frank and John were fascinated by
raptors. After high school, Frank and John drove
west in a 1934 Chevrolet, photographing and cap-
turing hawks and falcons. During this trip they ar-
rived in Jackson, Wyoming where they met arctic
naturalists Olaus and Mardy Murie. Parts of this
trip were described in their rst magazine article,
“Adventures with Birds of Prey”, for the National
Geographic Magazine in 1937. “Hawks in the
Hand” was the rst Book that Frank and John wrote
in 1939. Frank and John graduated with A. B. de-
grees in Science in 1939 from Pennsylvania State
University. They both went onto the University of
Michigan for M.S. degrees in Ecology and Wildlife
Management in 1940. World War II disrupted
their studies but they returned to the University of
Michigan after the war and completed their Ph.D.
degrees in 1949. Their Ph.D. dissertations were
published as a book, titled “Hawks, Owls, and
Wildlife, a foundation study of two raptor popula-
tions, one in Michigan and the other near Moose,
In 1940, an Indian Prince named K. S. “Bapa”
Dharmakumarsinjhi read their 1937 falconry ar-
ticle published in National Geographic. He invited
Frank and John to visit him in India. The National
Geographic Society underwrote their trip to India
for a nine month stay with Bapa. The Craighead’s
wrote an article titled ”Life With an Indian Prince.”
These were the last days of the rule of Maharajahs
in India, and the last days of Indian falconry on
a grand scale. These were remarkable times for
the Craigheads. On September 6
, 1940 they em-
barked on the “S.S. President Cleveland” from San
Francisco accompanied by a Chesapeake Bay
puppy that was to be a present to Bapa. They
arrived in Bombay on October 21
, 1940 after a
storm-lled crossing of the Pacic. Unfortunately
the puppy, “Bomby” died two days before reach-
ing Bombay, a victim of the long stormy boat trip.
Bapa met Frank and John at the Taj Mahal Hotel
in Bombay where they stayed until they could re-
settle in a hotel at Bhavnagar, a city several hun-
dred miles from Bombay. Here they stayed for
the duration of their time in India, making frequent
trips with Bapa to nearby elds and longer so-
journs to forests, lakes and plains for hunting with
trained Shahins, Luggars, Peregrines and Saker
falcons. Coturnix quail, partridge, common heron,
and Pariah kites made up the majority of quarry
that was hunted. Another extraordinary hunting
event the Craigheads witnessed and lmed were
Cheetahs that were trained to hunt Blackbuck.
One of the other highlights of their trip just before
leaving India was a train trip to Darjeeling where
they observed the sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga,
the third highest peak in the world (28,169 ft.).
This was a most extraordinary adventure for the
Craigheads and from this seven month experience,
they recorded falconry techniques and terms that
are still used today in modern falconry.
Their visit was cut short by World War II, and they
caught passage home on a freighter in 1941. The
United States’ entry into the war interrupted Frank’s
education in wildlife. He and his brother attempted
to join the 10
Mountain Division but were called
by the U.S. Navy to set up a survival training pro-
gram and wrote a manual titled “How to survive on
Land and Sea” which is now in its fourth revised
edition (1984) and is still used by the armed ser-
vices. Toward the end of the war, Frank and John
trained agents of the Ofce of Strategic Services -
- later to become the CIA, in survival tactics. They
were scheduled to be dropped into areas behind
Russian lines when the war fortunately came to
end. In middle of the all this Frank married Ester
Stevens on November of 1943, while he was on
After World War II, Frank and Ester returned to
Wyoming where he and his brother bought 14
acres of land on Antelope Flats, near Moose,
Wyoming which is located about 16 miles north of
Jackson Hole.. Both Frank and his brother built
cabins on this land. Frank called this place home
base for the next fty six years. His brother moved
to Missoula, Montana where he became U.S Fish
and Wildlife Service Coop Leader.
In 1950, both brothers were called back to service
as consultants to the Strategic Air Command, and
in 1951 organized survival training schools for the
U. S. Air Force at Mountain Home Air Force Base
and McCall, Idaho. Frank managed the Desert
Game Range outside of Las Vegas for two years
(1955-57) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He then took a job in 1957 in Washington D.C.
in charge of Forest Recreation Research but re-
signed in 1959 since his superiors refused to let
him transfer back out west.
He moved his family back to Moose, Wyoming
where he and his brother’s career merged again.
The National Park Service requested them to
conduct a 12- year study on grizzly bears. This
became another outstanding achievement for
the Craigheads. It allowed Frank to organize the
Craighead Environmental Research Institute in
1964. Frank’s greatest contribution to the grizzly
bear study, to the wildlife ecology, and indirectly
to modern falconry was his leadership in devel-
oping and using radio transmitters. Along with
Hoke Franciscus and Joel Varney, Frank devel-
oped large-mammal radio collars. Several years
later, with Joel’s expertise, they modied U. S.
Navy navigation buoys to develop the rst animal
satellite transmitters. In 1971, their studies came
to an abrupt halt when they disagreed with the
Yellowstone National Park’s new superintendent
about grizzly bear management. They were re-
placed by a group of government research biolo-
gists, the Inter-agency Grizzly Bear Study Team,
who had an entirely different approach to grizzly
bear management in the Park .
In an unfortunate setback, Frank’s cabin in Moose,
Wyoming burned to the ground in 1978. The re
was signicant in that he lost most of his satel-
lite designs, pictures, books and papers. He had
been working on a pilot study to develop satel-
lite transmitters for use on birds with a grant from
NASA. Fortunately, the manuscript for “Track of
the Grizzly” was already at the publishers.
Frank suffered another loss in 1980 when Esther
pass away. In 1987 he married a wonderful Vermont
school-teacher named Shirley Cocker. She helped
Frank write his last book, “For Everything There is
a Season.” Shortly after marrying Shirley, Frank
was diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease. This
became his last challenge, and remained to the
end an inquisitive biologist. He would sit on top of
Blacktail Butte near his cabin and watch ravens
and raptors y overhead. He delighted in calling
to ravens and during the last few months of his life
visited Lamar Valley in Yellowstone to see grizzles
again and to hold a y rod in his hands.
In addition to his wife Shirley Craighead, he is
survived by his children Lance, Charlie and Jana,
his brother John, who lives in Missoula, Montana;
and his sister, Jean Craighead George, an author
of children’s books who lives in Chappaqua, New
Above the Village of Naini Tal, the Craighead Twins
Caught This Glimpse of 5-mile high Nanda Devi
(Himalayan Mountains )