Remembering Dave

One of the last emails Dave ever sent landed in my inbox on Friday afternoon. While most of us at Defenders had already headed home for the long holiday weekend, Dave was still thinking up new and better ways to protect the critters he cared so much about. He had compiled a list of conservation successes for 2011 for his beloved “meso-carnivores”—wolverines, lynx, fishers—and mentioned wanting to do a similar recap for each quarter of 2012.

That’s just the kind of guy he was. For two decades, Dave was deeply dedicated to protecting the wild animals and wild places that make the Northern Rockies so special. Whether he was tromping through the backcountry with “citizen scientists” in search of wolverine tracks, or defending critical lynx habitat from oil and gas drilling, he was always focused on a mission much larger than himself. And he did it with a warm smile, infectious laughter and an uplifting spirit that made us all want to cheer for the underdogs he was working hard to save.

Here’s a look at just some of the great work that Dave was involved with over the past year:

Forest Carnivore Year-end Report 2011

By David Gaillard, Defenders of Wildlife, Bozeman, Montana

America’s large carnivores the wolf and grizzly bear continued to grab the lion’s share of the headlines (so to speak), but 2011 was an important year for smaller carnivores that must overcome  the same magnitude of challenges or greater across our northern forests with just a fraction of the attention and resources.  Here is a look at some highlights this past year for the forest carnivores—lynx, wolverines and fishers—in the contiguous United States.

Wolverines in 2011

Wolverine, (c) Paul Nicklen / National Geographic StockThis rare and mysterious carnivore continues to gain public awareness and excitement, thanks to major advances by researchers, award-winning documentaries, and increasing attention by land and wildlife management agencies…

Lynx in 2011

Lynx, (c) Alanna Schmidt / National Geographic StockLast year was another sleeper for lynx in the lower 48, which is ironic given they have now been listed as a Threatened species under the ESA for more than a decade, and critical habitat has been designated across 40,000 square miles in the northeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest regions.  These few news items pertain to the implementation of lynx protections on the ground…

Fishers in 2011

Fisher, Photo: WA Department of Fish and WildlifeFishers lag even farther behind lynx and wolverines in terms of public awareness and conservation actions, despite the fact that they are probably the rarest forest carnivore in the U.S. Rocky Mountains, and perhaps even more imperiled across their West Coast range in California, Oregon and Washington.  Yet even fishers got some important attention in 2011…

Monitoring Forest Carnivores in 2011

“Citizen science” is an emerging buzzword for all of the forest carnivores now that advances in wildlife genetics make it possible to gather important information from noninvasive sampling of hairs and scats.  Methods include snowtracking, hair-snare stations and remote cameras, much of which can be conducted by amateur wildlife enthusiasts with some basic scientific training and outdoor skills.  Here are some links showing interesting results in 2011:

We here at Defenders will miss Dave very much, but we take some solace knowing that he died doing what he loved to do most: savoring the rugged wilderness under a beautiful Montana sky with his beloved wife.

Dave, your life was an inspiration for us all. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Readers: If you have any thoughts or memories to share, please feel free to add a comment below. You can also make a donation in Dave’s honor by visiting

8 Responses to “Remembering Dave”

  1. Chris

    Dave was an amazingly impressive advocate. He will be dearly missed.

  2. Sandra Rini

    My sincerest condolences to Dave’s family and all his friends and loved ones. What a tragic loss for the animals he helped protect, and the world as a whole. The world needs more people with Dave’s commitment to helping these animals that cannot speak for themselves.What a loss for all of us. Thank-you Dave…for all you did, and for sharing your passion to help the animals and make the world a better place. What a tragedy that it ended much too soon.

  3. Jim Pissot

    David Gaillard — committed, passionate, informed, focused, enthusiastic, hard-working, optimistic. Always there for you, and for the critters he cared about. Just when we need more heroes like David, we loose one. No doubt, though, he inspired many who follow in his path. Thanks much for everything, Dave!

  4. Anita M. Buffer

    Gone too soon. Thank you Dave for all your untiring work, photographs & articles that have enriched many lives, mine as well.
    My most sincere condolences to your family, friends and enthusiastic colleagues. You contributed so much to the world. May all your efforts continue to grow.

  5. charlotte cornwell

    Thank you for all you have done for the rest of us – and for those exceptional animals who have only those who truly care about our environment to speak for them. RIP

  6. kirsten m. kuhre

    He was a true hero and all round humanitarian-he will not only be missed by his human comrades,but I am sure that many creatures know of his compassion and diligence in protecting them over these many years. Bless his beautiful soul…..

  7. Nate Berg

    Dave you’re awesome and I know you’re still out there hangin with the wild critters! Thanks for helping lynx and wolverines in western Wyoming my friend…

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