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Biologist Spends Career Helping Endangered Woodpecker

Jena Donnell
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

After 35 years as a biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the last 25 of which have been spent climbing ladders to reach the nests of endangered woodpeckers, John Skeen will reach the top rung of his accomplished career – retirement.


“John has been an integral part of the Wildlife Department and Oklahoma’s red-cockaded woodpecker recovery efforts,” said Bill Dinkines, Assistant Chief for the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division.

While Skeen’s career with the Wildlife Department began in Oklahoma City, he has spent the bulk of his time managing the McCurtain County Wilderness Area, located north of Broken Bow. From 1985 through 1991, Skeen was a biologist with the Wildlife Diversity Program, formerly known as the Nongame Program. During that time, Skeen coordinated special proejcts, including grants related to endangered species. 

Home to Oklahoma’s last remaining population of red-cockaded woodpeckers, the 14,000-acre Wilderness Area is also the largest tract of uncut shortleaf pine/hardwood forest remaining in the nation and the oldest Wildlife Department-owned area.  

“John has made great strides in our habitat management program, using hardwood thinning and prescribed fire to successfully restore the pine-bluestem habitat the woodpeckers need to forage,” Dinkines said. “He has been a great asset to the Wildlife Department and a true ambassador for our wildlife.”

Skeen was recently recognized for his years of service during the July meeting of the Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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