Jim Anderson, Champion of the Natural World | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Jim Anderson, Champion of the Natural World

An ode to our longtime naturalist contributor, who went out among the stars Sept. 22

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Jim was born James Oscar Anderson Jr. on March 27, 1928, in West Haven, Connecticut and raised on a small farm. For 16 years, he never had cold hands or a cold forehead—thanks to his grandfather teaching him how to milk cows.

He leaves wife Sue, who has lived with him for nearly 50 years, six children: Kristen, Dean, Ross, Reuben, Caleb and Miriam, 16 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. 

Jim Anderson with one of his beloved owls. Anderson passed away Sept. 22. - COURTESY ANDERSON FAMILY
  • Courtesy Anderson family
  • Jim Anderson with one of his beloved owls. Anderson passed away Sept. 22.

It was on the farm that Jim learned the Conservation Ethic at the age of 11. "You eat what you shoot," his grandfather said, as he inspected a great horned owl Jim had shot and taught him the positive role of owls in the environment.

It was also in West Haven that Jim began a long love affair with airplanes and flying. He used a horse-drawn mowing machine to cut the grass on a small airport close by, and took his wages in flying time. (This experience eventually led him to become an FAA Certified Commercial Pilot and flight instructor in gliders).

Jim rolled into Bend on his Harley-Davidson in September of 1951, after spending four years in the U.S. Navy serving on sub-chasers in the Caribbean. The day after he arrived in Bend he was fighting forest fires, using his motorcycle for transportation on mountain roads. 

In the mid-'50s Jim spent time with Fort Rock, Oregon, horseman Reub Long, author of "The Oregon Desert," to see if he wanted to be a buckaroo. After pulling calves at 16-below zero, he decided he didn't.

Jim logged, mined pumice and studied coyotes—especially the response to poisons (and subsequent impact on non-target species, such as raptors) and what effect "control" had on reducing livestock damages. He also became involved with the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, apprehending criminals shooting raptors and other wildlife. In later years, he contributed to studies for ODFW on bats, eagles, hawks, owls, cormorants and osprey.

Jim worked for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland as a naturalist for several years, implementing outdoor education and scientific activities for families, students and teachers. He took hundreds of children on field trips throughout the Northwest in the OMSI Space Cruiser bus. He was also involved in operating OMSI's science camps. He then became the director of the Children's Zoo and Conservation and Education Programs in what is now the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

Jim has been involved in studying and banding raptors in Central Oregon for over 50 years. He and wife Sue recently completed their part of a 10-year survey of the Golden eagles in Oregon that took them to many remote places in Oregon's outback where they loved to spend their time. 

Jim has been writing a nature column for "The Nugget Newspaper" in Sisters and the "Source Weekly" of Bend for many years. He is also the author of a book, "Tales from a Northwest Naturalist." He was a self-taught naturalist. (In his case a "Naturalist" is a biologist who flunked chemistry.) 

Jim traveled to Australia and lived with Aborigines in the Northern Territory for a time and studied spiders in Melbourne. He was the manager of the Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Southeast Arizona for three years. He then originated the nature programs at Sunriver in the early '70s, working with John Gray and the original landscape architect, Bob Royston.

He conducted Elder Hostel programs for Central Oregon Community College, Sunriver Nature Center and Southern Oregon University for several years, and enjoyed working with OPB and the crew with "Oregon Field Guide." One of his favorite activities was taking a Great Horned Owl into a classroom and introducing children to the wide world of nature.

He died, reluctantly, on Sept 22 and his final resting place will be in full view of his beloved Fourt. Rock in Central Oregon. A celebration of life is planned for the near future.

Those wishing to honor Jim with a donation can send it to the Deschutes Land Trust, one of his beloved organizations for preserving Central Oregon special lands for future generations.

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