The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) named Dan Gibbs the 2017 Wildlife Biologist of the Year at their annual meeting in Louisville this week. Gibbs is the Bear Program Leader for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
“Dan’s ability to analyze and interpret data then relate it to the management of a wildlife species has been instrumental in establishing bear hunt zones based on the best science available,” SEAFWA President Alvin Taylor said. “He works closely with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest, Gatlinburg, and other communities to deal with bear conflict and nuisance issues and coordinates the Appalachian Bear Rescue, which cares for orphaned cubs and relocates them once they are old enough.”
Gibbs established an on-line bear reporting system on the TWRA website so the public can report bear sightings, which will add to the information on which TWRA bases its bear management decisions. Beyond his black bear duties, Gibbs coordinates goose and wood duck banding and dove field leasing. In conjunction with the region’s wildlife management area managers, Gibbs assists in developing annual hunting season recommendations.
“Dan’s efforts to implement the use of bear proof trash cans and to educate thousands of tourists about bear-human conflicts and how they can prevent them have been vital for the health of the state’s bear population and the safety of our visitors and citizens,” said TWRA Director Ed Carter. “He is an exceptional employee, always willing to assist his coworkers, and a consummate professional when dealing with the public.”
Gibbs currently serves as the SEAFWA Large Carnivore Working Group chair and has been an active member of the Southeast Black Bear Work Group for many years. A multistate bear population study using DNA from hair samples and the adoption of a standardized educational outreach program called BearWise are two results of his leadership and engagement.
In his off time, Gibbs is passing his passion for the outdoors on to his two sons. He is a deacon and engaged in youth and overseas ministries at his church, and he is always willing to volunteer in his community to educate the public about wildlife.
The Association’s Biologist of the Year Awards are presented to two career biologists of state wildlife agencies, one each in the categories of wildlife and fisheries, who in the opinion of the SEAFWA Awards Committee have made outstanding contributions toward wildlife/fisheries conservation.
The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.