Wildlife biologist killed in helicopter accident

Wildlife biologist killed in helicopter accident »Play Video
Rocky Spencer, left, kneels over a tranquilized bear in Federal Way, Wash. in this May 31, 2007, file photo.

SELAH, Wash. -- A Washington State wildlife biologist was killed Saturday afternoon when he was hit by a helicopter rotor blade.

The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office identified the man as Fish and Wildlife Agent Rocky Spencer.

The name may be familiar to KOMO viewers, as Spencer, 55, was often featured in reports about bears and other local wildlife.

Sheriff Clayton Myers said Spencer was hit by the rotor as he was walking around the outside of the helicopter near State Route 821 north of Selah about 3 p.m.

Spencer was working as part of a team called in to catch bighorn sheep on the Mt. Baldy Ranch in Yakima Canyon at the time of the accident.

The sheep were to be transported to Washington State University to be studied, and Myers said Spencer had been involved in many similar capture activities before and was one of the best in the field.

Spencer, who and grew up in Longview, Wash., was based in North Bend and worked throughout Western Washington, specializing in bears and cougars.

"Rocky was highly skilled and passionately committed to wildlife fieldwork," said state Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings.

"His advice and assistance helped residents and local communities, especially in suburban King County, co-exist with wildlife in a rapidly changing environment. His countless contributions to the Department during his 29-year career will be long remembered, and he will be greatly missed."

Spencer was a graduate of Western Washington University and joined the Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1978 as a scientific technician.