After spending 35 years managing wildlife populations and guiding land use decisions, wildlife biologist Doug McWhirter is retiring from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. McWhirter worked for the department in Cody and Pinedale for much of that time, but he’s been the wildlife management coordinator in Jackson for the last five years.
McWhirter has built a reputation as the state’s foremost bighorn sheep expert and has spent his career doing everything from managing elk-wolf relationships in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to overseeing energy development in mule deer territory.
Reflecting on his decades of service, McWhirter said one of his favorite parts of the job was doing aerial surveys of wildlife throughout the state.
“I can’t begin to estimate how many hours or days I spent in little airplanes and helicopters flying over some of the most incredible wild country there is looking at wildlife,” he said. “Not many people get to do that. I would have done it for free, but it was my job.”
McWhirter also conducted research, collaborating with graduate students on projects studying sage grouse and mountain goats, among others. Being a wildlife biologist means being curious, he said, adding that he loved working with young people because their enthusiasm was infectious.
While it’s his colleagues McWhirter said he’ll miss the most, serving the public was another one of his most cherished parts of the job.
“Being a state agency, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, we work for the public—we work for the citizens of Wyoming,” he said. “I’ve considered that a privilege, so I’ll miss doing that.”
In retirement, McWhirter looks forward to dedicating time to his book on the state’s bighorn sheep, which he hopes to finish writing by next year.