John David Bittner, “Dave”, age 75, died on January 9th, 2020 in Ramona, California while conducting a technical climb to a critically threatened Golden Eagle nest in San Diego County’s Bandy Canyon.
Dave was born on December 30, 1944 in Mt Healthy, Ohio to John and Marian Bittner and was the oldest of their six boys. He is survived by his five brothers: Thomas (Kim), Scott (Linda), Dean (Jill), Ross (Jennifer) and Todd (Linda); his wife Leigh and their children: John (Laura), Michael, Kurt (Emily) and Anne (Stephen); grandchildren: Helena, Harrison, Graham, Ronan, Wyatt, Adelaide, Knox, Isaak, Alexandria and Zackary.
Dave’s life was dedicated fully to his love of wildlife and wild places. His love of wildlife was apparent at a young age. He obtained his first license to band birds of prey when he was 16 and his high school senior trip was to Florida where he banded and photographed herons and osprey. He studied wildlife biology at The Ohio State University at the undergraduate and graduate levels and played varsity hockey. After graduating college Dave was drafted into the U.S. Army and served two years of active duty as an air traffic control specialist on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea. After serving in the Army he worked for the Cleveland Natural History Museum, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and taught at Hocking College before moving to California.
In 1996 he co-founded the Wildlife Research Institute (https://www.wildlife-research.org/) with Leigh. WRI is a public, non-profit organization that conducts research and provides data and education for the wise use and management of wildlife and wildlife habitat. Through WRI, Dave helped preserve over 3,000 acres of Grasslands in Ramona, California. In addition, WRI's mission is to promote timely conservation biology through cooperative programs with agencies, industry, and academia. WRI is a land trust and manager of mitigation for sensitive habitats.
His passion for wildlife never faded. Dave could always be found in the field with a camera in hand to research and record the beauty of nature with his students, colleagues, children, family and friends in tow. He inspired through his passion, provided unbelievable experiences and adventures and loved to share his knowledge as a guide. Throughout his life, Dave helped educate thousands on understanding and appreciating wildlife coupled with the necessity of protecting their habitat first and foremost.
A memorial gathering to will be held on January 25, 2020 at the Begent Ranch in Ramona, California to celebrate his life and love of wildlife. We respectfully ask that to honor his legacy please donate to The Dave Bittner Golden Eagle Fund (https://www.wildlife-research.org/donate).
Bonham Bros & Stewart Mortuary and Cremation Service is assisting the family.
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