Farming Rural 17

David L. Ruhter

May 27, 1951 ~ May 25, 2021 (age 69)


David L. Ruhter, 69, of Urbana passed away at 11:54 a.m. on May 25, at Carle Foundation Hospital. He was born on May 27, 1951 in Winfield, Kansas, the son of Paul and Mary (Fulton) Ruhter. He married Kathleen Bair on August 20, 1972. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, two sons- Mathew(Mary)Ruhter of Frankfort, Illinois and Jeremy(Colleen)Ruhter of Sidney, Illinois; grandchildren- Ian, Rosemary, Lorelei, Zachary and Abilene; one brother- Paul ( Shirley) Ruhter of Idaho; two sisters- Polly (Gary) Epting of Kansas and Marilyn (Dave) Younie of Colorado. He is preceded in death by his parents. David graduated from the University of Kansas with a Master’s degree in Systematics and Ecology. He pursued his passion for biodiversity and wildlife with a distinguished career in various Zoos and Parks and at the University of Illinois.  He was an advocate for animal welfare and developed low stress care and handling protocols that focused on both the animal’s physical and mental health. He authored several husbandry articles on antelopes and elephants that became the standard of care within the industry. He reimagined how people and wildlife coexist by advocating for a healthy and respectful relationship between man and this planet. Education was pivotal to his goals in conservation. During his career he appeared regularly on a children show in Nebraska, implemented interactive animal exhibits at the Oklahoma City Zoo, oversaw the building of a environmental education building at the Houston Zoo and launched Earth Camp while Wildlife Director at Silver Springs Park in Florida. His work culminated in his retirement when he saw his ultimate vision realized when he started Ruhter Bison LLC in 2011, using a model of  providing a sustainable source of food while building natural habitats and restoring native prairie. One day while looking over his bison grazing, David claimed he had achieved success by proclaiming “life is good”. David was deeply devoted to his family and his greatest pride were his children and grandchildren. A kind soul was lost to the world but the love he had for it will be felt for generations Memorials may be made to The Nature Conservancy. Condolences may be shared at


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