Top: Birds of Al Nye, Jim Ruos and Bill Harry, Arthur-Peregrine Bottom: Potomac Falcon Association
JAMES L. RUOS
(1934-2019)
by S. Kent Carnie
W
ith the passing of Jim Ruos,
American falconry has lost an
irreplaceable champion. His
personal role on all of our behalf,
now beyond the memories of most in our
community, is reflected in the fact that today we
have nation-wide legal falconry with practical
regulations.
Trained as a wildlife biologist, early in his career
he joined the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(FWS) where he served in what is today the
office of Migratory Bird Management,
specializing in dove management. Despite this
official specialty, as a dedicated falconer well
versed in raptor biology, when questions arose
within The Service pertaining to birds of prey
they frequently were referred to Jim.
By the latter 1960’s Jim had joined Fran
Hamerstrom on NAFAs “Legislative Committee
(eventually, Technical Advisory Committee)
seeking regulated legal falconry first at the state
and then federal level. His federal position
made him a key player when the Feds assumed
responsibility for birds of prey by amendment
of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1972. Having
helped develop a NAFA-proposed model state
falconry regulation, he was instrumental in the
FWS using it as a strawman for development
of the new federal falconry regulations.
With all that in his background, he was the
natural within The Service to
shepherd those regulations
through multiple iterations
between 1972 and 1976,
ensuring that extreme
counter-regulations from
our opponents were met
with logic, reason and
biology. With the same
bases, Ruos also played a key
role in the FWS Environmental Assessment
supporting falconry and the finally accepted
regulations. Jim was not some falconer “mole
surreptitiously inserted into FWS ranks but
their recognized go-to raptor guy. What we
got from Jim were regulations based on science
and reality, free from the emotions and half-
truths that had been thrown into the regulatory
hopper by those who opposed or just did not
understand the sport.
That same Migratory Bird Management
office was completely ignored by FWS
Law Enforcement when, a decade later,
Law Enforcement carried out its infamous
“Operation Falcon, motivated by arrests,
fines and defamation rather than biology. Jim
officially opposed that operation as the facts
became clear. He further aided (albeit behind
the scenes) in defense (successful) against a
draconian revision of falconry regulations
proposed by FWS Law enforcement ostensibly
resulting from their Operation. In so doing he
earned the enmity of FWS Law Enforcement in
an era when, for all intents and purposes, the law
enforcement tail was wagging the FWS dog. Law
enforcement refused to accept that a falconer
within the service could be providing honest
and unbiased criticism. It did not take long
before Jim was forced to retire, his career ruined
thanks to his standing up for falconers and
falconry. Throughout all this, Jim was staunchly
supported by his wife Mary who then helped
shoulder their efforts in establishing a new, if
unrelated, career where they
succeeded admirably. No amount
of success, however, could erase
the wound on his heart, solely
because he had been honest.
At his passing we hope these few
words will bring to light within
the falconry community the
tremendous debt we all owe this
unsung hero!
A Tribute
Jim was an ieplaceable
champi in the falcry wld.
Princess Anne,
8 years old in 1980
Donors: Michael Yates, Robert Collins, James Mosher, Andrew Edwards, Laura Kitchin
Greenleaf, Hal and Theresa Kitchin, David C. Klinger, Tom Gromling, Steven Atwater,
Dorothy Donahoe, Frank Sessions, Essex H. Thomas, Mary Ruos, Bryan Townsend
by Mike Dupuy
I was in my late 20s when I befriended
my Falconry sponsor Jim Ruos. Jim
and I hit it off from the start. Jim was
living in Highland, Maryland at the
time, and I lived 15 miles south in Silver
Spring, Maryland.
Jim appreciated my lifelong interest
and dedication to Falconry, and I
appreciated his encyclopedic knowledge
of raptors and falconry. Among his
many accomplishments, Jim had been
instrumental in creating the framework
for Falconry to be recognized as a
legitimate regulated field sport in the
United States.
Not only was Jim the best sponsor I
could have had but he became my best
Falconer friend. He helped me perfect
my raptor ID skills, expanded my
knowledge of trapping, and took me
into the field hunting with him.
In old school Falconry when a sponsor
allowed you to serve as an apprentice
it was much more than it appeared
on the surface. They were in essence
making you a member of their family.
Jim worked at USFWS Migratory
Bird Department which was at the
epicenter of the source of the Federal
undercover sting known as “Operation
Falcon. Jim fought the Bureaucracy’s
attempt to indict and stain the Falconry
community without merit and would
later resign in disgust from the Agency
where he had planned to finish his
career.
In 1998 Jim and Mary moved to Paris,
Virginia, which immediately became a
destination or overnight haunt where
we could reminisce and catchup. Jim
continued to play a role advising
me in matters of falconry, raptor
research and the politics of falconry.
I continue to use equipment
which Jim designed and shared
with me. It was an honor to learn
the art of falconry from Jim.
Hopefully, I or some other falconer,
will double back and re-examine the
record on Operation Falcon and look
for the records Jim left to the Archives
of Falconry.
Honoring Jim Ruos
by Jim Mosher
First of all, what an amazing falconer and critical
supporter of the falconry community. It’s not too
much to say that without him we wouldn’t have
the active and vibrant modern practice of that
very ancient sport today. He sacrificed a great
deal, personally and professionally, in the process
of developing what continue to be sensible and
important falconry regulations. During my active
falconry years, he was a mentor and valuable
source of guidance. We shared both personal and
professional interests in birds of prey.
Jim became my mentor early in my professional
career. He provided his expertise and critical
financial support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service for my research program on woodland
raptors and techniques for censusing populations.
Moreover, he was an active participant and
occasional, welcome critic of that work. That grant
supported three MS and a PHD student, all of
whom went on to serve in State or Federal wildlife
agencies.
Theres much I owe Jim Ruos for his support and
friendship over the years. His loss, personally, to the
sport of falconry and raptor conservation is deeply
felt.
His place among the champions of falconry on the
Wall of Remembrance is well earned.
The Best Falconer Friend
Clockwise: Jim and Goshawk in 1986, Jim Banded Peregrine, Cape Charles, VA in 1979,
Jim and Mary in 1975, Jim Mosher with Redtail, Frostburg MD, in 1980
L-R: Goshawk, 1987, Harris Hawk, Otis, 4 year old male, 1985
My best friend, James Ramsay, and I were
intoxicated with hawks. It was middle school
and we had discovered that the new field
biologist in town was a falconer. He had a
hawk on a block perch in his front yard! He
put up with our random and enthusiastic
visits and calls, answering our many questions
with deep kindness and great knowledge. ‘Mr.
Ruos, I saw this today’ or Mr. Ruos what is the
difference between this and that’ or ‘Mr. Ruos,
Mr. Ruos, Mr. Ruos. He was our hero and
role model. We met in the warm season of the
year, summer, which is short enough on the
49th parallel in Warroad.
When early winter came in November, Jim had
the opportunity to travel to the north shore of
Lake Superior to pick up a big hen goshawk
from Bob Widmeier, a Minnesota falconer who
lived just north of Duluth, Minnesota. He
asked James and me to accompany him. We
would have a unique experience, and we could
help manage the bird on the trip home.
Mr. Widmeier lived in a log home with a huge
stone fireplace. He was married to an exotic
blonde haired, six-foot-tall Canadian woman
with a strong French-Canadian accent. James
and I fell in love with her immediately. Bob
Widmeier was broad shouldered, had greying
black hair and was loud and voluble. James
and I sat in the corner and listened intently
as these two masters of the sport of kings
discussed the subtle points of falconry. We
saw the mature goshawk, all four pounds of
her. She was later named Titan, appropriate
given her bulk. Her stare was piercing and
icy. Widmeier also had a barbary falcon, a
subspecies, we were told, of peregrine. She was
beautiful, petite.
On the trip home snow was falling heavily and
we had 250 miles to cover to reach Warroad,
Minnesota. We had a million questions that
passed the time. I sat in the front passenger
seat and James got to sit in the darkness in the
back seat with the enormous gos on his left
wrist. She was calm, the darkness functionally
a hood to soothe her fears.
Just west of Bena, car headlights blossomed
in the heavily falling snow--from the ditch on
the north side of the road. Mr. Ruos slowed
and stopped by the car in the ditch. They
had slid on the snowy road. There were three
very intoxicated men in the car, and they were
singing. There was three feet of snow in the
ditch, and it would clearly take a tow to get her
out. Pushing it out was impossible.
Only one of the three was willing to ride with
us to Cass Lake where warmth and a tow could
be arranged. James, with the gos on his left
wrist, slid over to the left side of the back seat
so the bird was as far from his new seat mate as
possible. I wondered how our new companion
would react when he saw the bird. We left
the other two, singing loudly. Our new car
He answered r
many questis with
deep kindne and
great knowledge.”
Our Hero and Role Model
by Steve Atwater
Left, top-bottom: Peregrine Arthur 2yrs Highland 1987, Jim and Peregrine in 1986
Gyrfalcon Athena, Fulton MD in 1967.
Above: Jim Releasing Peregrine Assateague in 1969 Right: Jim and Flinka
occupant sang for a while, too, then seemed to fall
asleep or pass out. The gos was still and James’ seat
mate did not seem to notice the enormous occupant
three feet away, not even when we got to Cass Lake
and let him out at a well-lighted gas station did, he
apparently notice the gos.