Regional Offices > Jackson Region > Jackson Region News > Game & Fish Nongame Biologist Susan Patla Retires

Game & Fish Nongame Biologist Susan Patla Retires

October 12, 2018
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Jackson Nongame Biologist Susan Patla hangs up her red shirt

Jackson - Jackson Nongame Wildlife Biologist Susan Patla has decided to hang up her red Game & Fish shirt one last time. Patla has spent the last 20 years as the department’s sole Jackson-Pinedale Game & Fish nongame wildlife biologist, monitoring and caring for many notable species such as trumpeter swan, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, great gray owl, common loon, harlequin duck, wolverine and many more. Most of her time has been spent on these species whose populations have been in peril or deemed Species of Greatest Conservation Need by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.
Patla has spent countless hours afield, typically by herself, quietly monitoring a vast array of nest sites across western Wyoming to record annual production and determine population trends for these species over time.
While population monitoring was at the core of her duties, she went well beyond that. Working with numerous partners, she helped raise funds for planning and directing additional research on many nongame wildlife species including, the long-billed curlew, harlequin duck, great gray owl, bald eagle, black rosy finch, hummingbird, pika and wolverine. For many of these species it was ground-breaking research that had never been done. Her continued efforts on the long-term trumpeter swan range expansion program also resulted in more than doubling Wyoming’s resident swan population numbers and distribution.
But Patla wasn’t done there, she also took on the daunting task of creating and improving habitat for the now growing population of trumpeter swans. With wetlands being the most biologically diverse habitat type in the West, Susan soon realized she could benefit a great many species through creating new wetlands on the Wyoming landscape. Again, working with many partners to fund-raise was the initial step and through countless hours of hard work, Susan raised over two million dollars in grants from the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, the North American Waterfowl Conservation Act and other programs to protect, enhance and create a number of new shallow water wetland ponds on private and public land in the Green River drainage. Swans are now nesting at some of these wetlands, which are also used by a large number of other wildlife species.
Of course, Susan is an accomplished birder and is recognized throughout the region as one of the leading authorities on all things birds, and this is in a community with some very avid birders. Given that, it would only seem natural that Susan would be a close friend of longtime local bird authority Bert Raynes. Through her close association with Bert, she has been a major part of the local bird club, a major contributor to Bert’s weekly newspaper column and also one of the key players in the development of Jackson’s popular citizen science program call Nature Mapping Jackson Hole created under the auspices of the Raynes Fund.
In 2009, Patla proudly received the Sportsman of the Year award from the Jackson Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, for her work in enhancing wetland habitat for waterfowl and waterfowl hunting, despite being a non-hunter herself. In 2014, Susan and her sister Debra were together honored for their wildlife work by receiving the Craighead Wildlife Conservation Award from the Teton Science School Research Institute and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative. Susan also was the founder and organizer of the annual Teton Valley Christmas Bird Count from 1994-2012 and has been honored with the North American Birding Bird Survey-service award.
Susan is also a member of the Greater Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan Working Group (Chair 2000-2012), Nature Mapping Jackson Hole Advisory Board, Raynes Wildlife Fund Advisory Board, Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club, Wyoming Wildlife Society, Raptor Research Foundation and the Wyoming Golden Eagle Working Group.
“Susan has clearly dedicated herself to the conservation and management of nongame wildlife throughout her career and has made a lasting impression on Wyoming's wildlife,” said Zack Walker Nongame Program Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “She has been an integral part of the Nongame Program and her knowledge and advice will be missed. We wish her nothing but the best in her coming retirement.”
Susan’s accomplished wildlife career comes after an earlier career where she was the first woman hired by Scripps Institute of Oceanography as a seagoing Hydrographic Technician, spending up to six months at sea conducting research around the world, including two trips to Antarctica. After meeting her husband to be on her last sea cruise, Patla moved to northern California and began another interesting career as an experimental enologist working to improve the quality of wines at the Robert Mondavi winery in Napa Valley, California. Patla made small batches of experimental wines to isolate factors in vineyards to improve wine quality and conducted scientific tastings for the commercial wine-making staff. 
Susan and her husband Don plan to keep their home in the Jackson area, but you may not find them there year-round as the two will likely be on the road to their next adventure to enjoy new birds and maybe a glass of new wine as well.

- WGFD -

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