ERNEST PILLSBURY WALKER

Photo of Ernest Walker


Ernest was born in 1891 in Blue Springs, Missouri, and grew up on farms in Indiana, Colorado, and Utah. It was in this rural setting that his innate love for furred and feathered wild things was nurtured throughout his childhood. His formal education as a biologist was completed at the University of Wyoming.

After college Ernest went to Alaska as a warden and inspector with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and while there from 1913 to 1919, he met and married the former Astrid Shafsted. On his return to the states he served for two years as a U.S. game warden in Arizona and California. In 1921, he went back to Alaska with the U.S. Biological Survey where he served as fur and game warden and as executive officer and fiscal agent for the Alaska Game Commission.

He came to Washington, D.C., in 1927 and assumed a position at the National Zoo under the director, William Mann. He was assistant director of the National Zoological Park from 1930 to 1956. Although his articles on animal life appeared in such diverse publications as the National Geographic Magazine, the Saturday Evening Post, and the Illustrated London News, his life’s publishing work was his three volume Mammals of the World. Other popular works included First Aid and Care of Small Mammals and Studying Small Mammals. These two books were published by the Animal Welfare Institute in which Ernest served as an active member.

Ernest was a charter member of the American Society of Mammalogists. He was a member of the Masons and while in Alaska active with the Mount Juneau Lodge and its Eastern Star Chapter.

Earnest was considered a friend of the animals and worked diligently throughout his life for their protection. He dedicated one of his books “To the mammals, great and small, who contribute so much to the welfare and happiness of man, another mammal, but receive so little in return except blame, abuse and extermination.”

Ernest died on January 31, 1969, in a Rockville, Maryland, motel where he was staying to be close to his doctor who was treating him for a chronic heart condition. His wife died in 1961 and he had lived for several years in Arlington, Virginia, with his sister who was his closest relative.

Earnest was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1927 and received an honorary membership in 1961.