James received his Bachelors in Wildlife Biology and a minor in Journalism at the University of Montana (1984).
James is well traveled in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico and other regions of the Rocky Mountain West and has worked with black bears, grizzly bears, lions, wolves and array of other species in the last 30 or more years. He has been with the department since 1996 and is based out of Missoula, MT. James is one of six Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks grizzly bear managers working in Western Montana. Prior to working for the department he worked on a variety of wildlife-related projects. He has worked for National Geographic on a grizzly bear film on Kodiak Island; the Hornocker Wildlife Research Institute on mountain lions, black bears, tigers and Amur leopards in Russia, New Mexico and Glacier Park; the Glacier Institute as a field naturalist; the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study in the Yellowstone Ecosystem for 10 years; the Glacier National Park Wolf Ecology Project; the Idaho Fish and Game on black bears; the Maine Fish and Wildlife Black on black bears; and for the Border Grizzly Bear Project in Northwestern Montana. In addition he has worked on ranches in Montana, Oregon and British Columbia.
James started working on bears when he was still in high school, following the footsteps of his father Dr. Charles Jonkel, one of the founding fathers of bear research. At a young age James accompanied his father on the trap line and learned the tricks of the trade. After high school he naturally pursued a career in wildlife biology and began working as a field technician and wildlife educator in the summers and going to school in the winters. After graduating from college he bounced from field project-to-field project, working on bears in the summer months and other wildlife species during the winters. In 1996, after a long career as a field technician, he began working for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He thoroughly enjoys his job with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.