Gray N. Thornton serves as president and chief executive officer of the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), the premier sheep and mountain game conservation organization in the world. This is a society dedicated to “Putting and Keeping Wild Sheep on the Mountain.”
Prior to joining the Wild Sheep Foundation in 2008, Gray served as executive director of the Dallas Safari Club from 1997 to 2008 and chapter and membership director for Safari Club International from 1990 to 1997. During his tenure, he produced record results in membership growth, fundraising, and mission funding for both organizations. In joining these organizations, Thornton was following his passion for conservation and hunting . . . after having had a successful sales career with Unisys and Xerox corporations.
Gray was and is the public face for these various hunting and conservation organizations, and as a public speaker he has been invited to present keynote addresses internationally not only on wildlife conservation but also on hunting and angling ethics. These speeches were to diverse audiences ranging from civic and sportsmen’s groups to international associations, the Serbian Parliament, and to former Presidents of the United States of America, France, and South Africa.
Gray was awarded the “Wildlife Utilisation Award” by the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), that group’s highest conservation honor; the same organization also awarded him its highest service honor. In receiving the Coenraad Vermaak Distinguished Service Award, Gray became the first non-South African to be so recognized. Gray has also received the President’s Award from the Guide Outfitter Association of British Columbia for his years of dedicated service to the hunting and conservation community. He received a Katie Award from the Press Club of Dallas, which represents the southern United States, for the best Outdoor Story of the Year, “Iron Horse Fly Fishing.”
Gray serves on the board of directors of Bear Trust International as its vice-chairman. He has also served on the boards of the Conservation Fund, the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa Conservation and Empowerment Fund, the Ballot Issues Coalition, the Banovich Wildscape Fund, and the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation.
Gray, an avid hunter as well as a salt and freshwater fly fisherman, has hunted and fly-fished throughout North America and internationally. He has taken seventeen safaris to Africa and has hunted in New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, and Canada. As a mountain hunter, he has taken all four North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), a Rocky Mountain goat, a tahr, and a chamois.
He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Marketing from California State University at Fresno and has earned advanced credits in Wildlife Management from Colorado State University at Fort Collins.