As I recall: Moorhead native Olaus Murie was noted naturalist
"There is growing awareness of the beauty of country ... a sincere desire to keep some of it for all time. People are beginning to value highly the fact that a river runs unimpeded for a distance ... . They are beginning to obtain deep satisfacti...
"There is growing awareness of the beauty of country ... a sincere desire to keep some of it for all time. People are beginning to value highly the fact that a river runs unimpeded for a distance ... . They are beginning to obtain deep satisfaction from the fact that a herd of elk may be observed in back country, on ancestral ranges, where the Indians once hunted them. They are beginning to seek the healing relaxation that is possible in wild country. In short, they want it."
- Olaus J. Murie
Olaus Johann Murie was a noted naturalist whom some called "the father of modern elk management." He's also one of Moorhead's native sons.
Murie was born in 1889 in Moorhead, where he grew up in what was then a frontier community.
Murie graduated from Moorhead High School in 1908 and was named to the school's Hall of Honor in 2008.
He attended Fargo College for two years and then transferred with his Fargo College professor to Pacific University in Oregon. Wanting to become a naturalist, he studied zoology and wildlife biology. He graduated in 1912 and went to work for the Oregon state conservation department.
From 1914 to 1917, Murie participated in a scientific exploration of Hudson Bay and Labrador that was financed by the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh. These journeys prepared him for a job as wildlife biologist with the U.S. Biological Service.
In 1916, Murie returned to Moorhead and lectured on his work at Hudson Bay. In 1917, he came back to visit his family and while in Moorhead, enlisted in the observation section of the aviations corps during World War I. He returned again in 1920 to lecture on birds and wildlife, and in 1922 and 1923 for more lecturing.
From 1920 to 1926, Murie conducted a comprehensive study of Alaskan caribou, mapping their migrations and estimating their numbers.
During this time, Murie married Margaret "Mardy" Thomas, who later became a leading advocate for parks and wilderness. Born in Alaska, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Alaska. She accompanied her husband on most of his expeditions. In 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.
In 1927, Olaus Murie earned a Master of Science degree at the University of Michigan and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by Pacific University in 1949.
From 1920 to 1926, he worked in Alaska, traveling hundreds of miles by dogsled, boat and on foot surveying the Alaskan wilderness and its caribou. He went to Jackson, Wyo., in 1927 for the Biological Service and became an authority on elk.
Murie opposed the agency's policy of exterminating predators and rodents using insecticides and herbicides. The agency refused to publish a study Murie did on coyotes because it contained criticism of its policy of suppression of predators to satisfy hunting and cattle interests.
In 1945, Murie retired from the Biological Service and went to work part time for the Wilderness Society, in which he'd been involved since its beginnings. He served as president from 1950-57 and was also president of the Wildlife Society and a director of the Izaak Walton League. He was given the Audubon Society's highest award, which called Murie "the personification of the spirit of wilderness."
He was a self-taught artist, and his sketches of wildlife appeared in many of his books, some of which he wrote with his wife, Mardy. Murie's half brother, Adolph, was also a noted wildlife biologist.
Murie died on Oct. 21, 1963.
Sources: Forum files; Mark Peihl at the Historical and Cultural Society
of Clay County