ODFW Biologist Dies In Wreck

UPDATE, 12:28 P.M., JUNE 1, 2011: The Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission may name state land in the Yachats River valley the Tami Wagner Wildlife Area.

UPDATE 12:36 P.M., OCT. 28, 2010: The Oregonian has a piece on Wagner’s life.

UPDATE 4:15 P.M., NOV. 1, 2010: The Newport News Times has an obit.

UPDATE 10:07 A.M., NOV. 15, 2010: Wagner’s hometown newspaper in Norwalk, Ct., has some information about her youth.

Oregon state wildlife biologist Tamara “Tami” Wagner of Lincoln City was identified this morning as the deceased victim of a three-vehicle accident yesterday afternoon outside Toledo.

She was 52.

TAMI WAGNER, PHOTOGRAPHED DURING A BLACK OYSTERCATCHER SURVEY IN MAY 2009. (ODFW)

“She was really a great woman and a valued employee. She’ll be missed,” says colleague Brandon Ford at ODFW’s Newport office where she worked.

Wagner had been with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for 21 years. She was the assistant district wildlife biologist for part of the central Oregon Coast and mountains. She worked on urban elk issues, opening private lands for hunting, shorebird counts as well as testified at last year’s trial of a woman ultimately convicted of harassing wildlife by feeding bears.

ODFW spokesman Rick Hargrave said Wagner was “critical” in educating coastal communities about the dangers of feeding bears as well as getting some real “teeth” behind city ordinances prohibiting it.

“She gave so much of herself to the work and always tried to find a positive solution to any problem. Really, the loss is immeasurable,” said Rick Klumph, ODFW Watershed Manager.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Highways 20 and 229. According to the Oregon State Police, at around 3:37 p.m. Monday a 2004 Chevrolet passenger car driven by an 82-year-old California woman was stopped facing north on 229 at the intersection with 20. The Chevrolet began to cross Highway 20 directly in the path of an eastbound 2006 Freightliner truck pulling an empty pole trailer.

The car hit the passenger side of the semi-truck and its trailer flipped onto its side, colliding with an ODFW pickup and trailer driven by Wagner.

The Freightliner trailer and Wagner’s vehicle came to a stop blocking the westbound lane of Highway 20 while the California woman and her vehicle and the Freightliner truck both ended up on the south shoulder of the highway.

Wagner was pronounced dead at the scene.

The California woman was transported to a Newport hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Freightliner was not injured.

“It seems like we have our share of tragedies here — we’ve got a fairly large group in the Newport area — and they’re on the road a lot. You think the dangerous part of the job is working with wildlife, but in fact it’s probably getting to and from the places you work with wildlife,” says Ford.

In early September, a pair of Idaho state biologists — Larry Barrett and Dana Schiff — as well as their pilot died when their helicopter crashed. WDFW biologist Rocky Spencer also died on the job in a helicopter accident in 2007. And in 2009, an on-duty Washington game warden was involved in a late-night accident that killed a Bellingham girl when the car she was riding in failed to stop at a stop sign.

Ford describes Wagner as smaller in stature, but up for big jobs.

“She was not shy about handling elk 10 times her size,” he says, and recalls joining her and several others capturing Roosevelts near Lincoln City and releasing them near Yachats.

TAMI WAGNER AND OREGON STATE WILDLIFE VET COLIN GILLIN DURING A JANUARY 2007 ELK RELOCATION PROJECT NEAR LINCOLN CITY. (ODFW)

Born June 3, 1958, Wagner graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Bachelor of Science in wildlife biology. She had been at ODFW’s Newport office since 1996, and in her position since 2002.

“Tami was a valued friend and an outstanding professional who will be deeply missed by all of us,” says an email from ODFW director Roy Elicker and deputy directors Curt Melcher and Debbie Colbert to department staffers.

Wagner leaves behind a husband, daughter and son.

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