Kate Chamberlin, Jamey Eddy, Matthew Germino, Steve Herman, William Kuestner, Michael Lockhart,
Doug and Trisha Pineo, Mark Ritchie, Richard Smith, Astrid Vargas, Emmanuelle Vital, Cordelia Wagner
Chris Garber: A Tribute
— by Mark Ritchie
On January 21, 1996 our friend, Chris S.
Garber, 33, lost his life doing one of the things he
loved, skiing the back country. While telemarking
on Centennial Ridge in the Snowy Range he was
caught up in an avalanche.
Born March 15, 1962 to the concrete and as-
phalt connes of Philadelphia, Chris found his
way to Wyoming in 1990. From then until 1995
he worked as the Heritage Zoologist for the
Nature Conservancy’s Wyoming Natural Diversity
Database here in Laramie. During that time he
walked the mountains and plains of Wyoming
looking for rare species; surveying such critters
as the Wyoming toad, the boreal toad, and the
Townsend big-eared bat. As Chris’s work contrib-
uted to the cause of conservation, he was helping
to ensure Wyoming’s natural legacy. At the same
time it fed his own love of the outdoors. It was no
secret to his friends and employers that one of the
reasons Chris loved his work was his excuse to be
out in wild places.
Since graduating in 1987 with a BS from Evergreen
State College in Olympia, Washington, Chris did
job after job that allowed him to explore nature
and develop the impressive breadth of knowledge
that gained him the respect of many a biologist.
He started out as a sheries research assistant in
Corvallis, Oregon. He was an interpretive natural-
ist in Friday Harbor, Washington. As a technical
aide with the Washington Department of Wildlife,
Chris assisted on Gyrfalcon and Peregrine Falcon,
studies. Again he worked on Peregrine Falcons
for The Peregrine Fund to reintroduce the raptor
in Washington state. He worked as a biological re-
search assistant once more in Corvallis, Oregon.
He did a stint as a wildlife consultant in Seattle,
Washington. Chris worked yet again with raptors
in Ephrata, Washington and for the National Park
Service in Fairbanks, Alaska. All along the way
Chris offered his experience and expertise to oth-
ers. We all relied on him for his broad knowledge
as a naturalist. If you found a feather in the forest
and took it to Chris he could tell you what spe-
cies it came from. If you saw a small, thin mammal
with a black tail bouncing around Libby Flats in
the Snowy Range he would tell you it was a long
tailed weasel, what it ate, and how it survived the
winter. He believed in the ideals of conservation
education and often gave presentations to kids.
This past year he started Peregrinations, an eco-
tourism company as yet another way of extending
outdoor experiences to others, pay the bills, and
stay close to nature himself. Chris’s entire pro-
fessional career was a commitment to conserva-
tion, to others, and a long personal wander in the
When Chris wasn’t making his living working for
various agencies and organizations for the welfare
of wildlife, he was kayaking in Belize, Baja, Costa
Rica, Nicaragua, and most recently in Thailand
and North Vietnam. He had a trip in the works to
explore the coast of Bafn Island by kayak. He’d
hiked Alaska and walked the remote interior of
Ellsmere Island National Park in Canada. He ex-
plored untold miles in the broad basins and ranges
of Wyoming.
From an early age Christopher held a fasci-
nation for raptors, particularly falcons. Much of
Christophers work experience led him to a deep-
ening of his love of falcons. All of us who knew
Chris remember him with his falcons and his dogs,
Bonehead and Dot, the hyperactive bird dog duo.
To watch Chris hunt sage grouse with his bird and
his dogs was to witness a man in his element.
This past fall Chris told of one of his most moving
ights with his falcon. The sun was just below the
horizon, the Wyoming sky pink and blue, Cielo, his
falcon, a thousand feet above held her eye pre-
cisely on her prey. Both dogs were on point, and
Chris, in that perfect spot known to the falconers
world, found grace in a most perfect unity of bird,
dog, prey, and a man.
Chris is survived by his mother, Jan Rivera and
brother, Robert, both of Delaware; his father, Jan
Garber and sisters, Ericka Gray and Alexandra
Garber, all of Pennsylvania; sister Loren Ferro of
Washington; and a family of friends throughout
the world.
Hawk Chalk Vol. XXXV No. 1 April 1996
A Remembrance of Chris Garber
— by Doug Pineo
Conservation and falconry lost a wonderful friend
on January 21 when Chris Garber died in an av-
alanche while back-country skiing in the Snowy
Range near his home south of Laramie, Wyoming.
He was 33 years old. Characteristically, he was
in the company of two expert telemarkers, having
fun while seeking to learn more. He outlived most
of us in many respects.
Chris pursued his passion for the natural world in
every aspect of his life. He was a ne zoologist
and conservation biologist, working with pigmy
rabbits, ferruginous hawks, gyrfalcons and pere-
grines in Washington state, as a raptor biologist in
Gates of the Arctic National Park, and for 5 years
as the Heritage zoologist for the Wyoming Nature
Conservancy. Chris was a superb photographer
and an experienced adventurer and wilderness
traveler. He hiked and kayaked in Central America,
southwest Asia, the high plains and desert ba-
sins of the West, and the Alaskan and Canadian
Arctic. He was a peregrine hack-site attendant in
Washington’s Columbia Gorge. In Wyoming he
surveyed rare toads, salamanders, bats and the
plant communities in which they live.
Chris, whom it was my pleasure to sponsor in
falconry while he was studying at the Evergreen
State College in Olympia, was best known in
American falconry as a serious grouse hawker
during his years in Wyoming. The last half of his
hawking career featured “Ciello”, his gyr/Barbary,
and the famous pointers “Bone” and “Dot”. These
two shrub-steppe cruisers pointed grouse for
many Wyoming falconers, but got good with Chris
and Ciello. Chris focused lots of energy on work-
ing with good dogs, and avoided frequently ac-
quiring new birds. He was richly rewarded for this
Chris’s life was a vigorous celebration of our natu-
ral world, good music and art, and friendship. At
his memorial in Laramie, a packed hall of friends,
falconers, biologists, artists, adventurers and their
families gathered to remember his extraordinary
generosity, his gentle manner, his commitment to
conservation, his travels and adventures, and his
ne company. For Chris, there was no conict in
celebrating the diversity of life on this planet, and,
pursuing the hunt with great passion. Chris hon-
ored the deer he shot, the grouse brought to foot
by Ciello, and their sagebrush home. He knew
all the wildlife he encountered and their ecology.
There were no “dicky birds” in his world. He held
no prejudice against man, woman or beast. This is
one of the great lessons of Chris’s life.
Chris died with his boots on, pursuing his bliss in
a wild place he held dear. He has left us to fol-
low, as he did, Edward Abbey’s advice, “So get
out there and hunt and sh and mess around with
your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the
forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains,
bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that
yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and
contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely mys-
terious and awesome space.” Thank you, Chris.
American Falconry Vol. 2 pgs. 64-69
Reections by His Mother, Jan Rivera
Thank you for being Christophers friends. It’s
good to know Chris was in the midst of people
who appreciated and cared for him; despite his
living so far from his family.
You knew Chris as a friend. He was my rst-born
child, my rst-born son. I will never stop being
amazed and grateful that he was mine. Being his
mother is like being a duck who hatched a swan.
All parents believe their children are special;
Christopher truly was. He had an exceptional
gentleness and inner grace. Everything alive re-
sponded to him. He literally charmed birds out of
the trees. Children were attracted to him as if he
were the Pied Piper. They knew he was, in the
very best way, still one of them: his sense of won-
der and delight was still intact.
A quiet light shone from him. It still does. Like you,
his family is gathering for a memorial service. I
know this is supposed to be an occasion for fac-
ing facts and saying goodbye, as well as for re-
membering. The facts are inescapable, and we
must accept them, but I cannot and never will say
goodbye-- not while the natural world Christopher
loved so deeply exists. Christopher is too much a
part of it for his spirit to leave us entirely.
Chris once wrote to me that he found his God in the
wild places. I have always believed God blessed
him with exceptional gifts. Christopher drew affec-
tion to him as naturally as he breathed. He had
an instinctive way with animals from the time he
could crawl. The gardens he planted-- starting
with a packet of seeds he ordered from a catalog
“for a penny you have to have earned yourself,”
when he was ve-- grew as if fairy dust had been
sprinkled on them.
People often say they regret not having said “I love
you” before it was too late. That, at least, is one
grief his family will not have to bear. Christopher
knew how much we loved him. He knew there
wasn’t a day we didn’t think of him and long to
have him with us. It was hard on us that he so sel-
dom was with us. When Christopher walked into
the house, the center of gravity seemed to shift-
- we all clustered in the part of the room where
he was, as if the oor had tilted. It was always so
hard to let him go. I hated driving him back to the
To be a parent is to give over a hostage to a fate
you cannot control. The call from the sheriff was
the one I had been terried of receiving every day
since Chris was old enough to go outside without
holding my hand.
But letting go of Chris was not only inevitable, it
was right. Christopher needed to be free, and he
was. Christopher was called to his own kind of life,
and he lived it, every day, on his own terms.
We were so proud of him. It was a family joke that
Chris had been turning over rocks to look for frogs
from the time he could walk, and now he was get-
ting paid for it. In my eyes, Christopher has always
remained my beautiful little boy, but those are the
sentiments of a mother. The small boy in my heart
was also a ne and upright man. Chris said little,
yet felt so much. He was an extraordinarily tender
and caring person who could not abide cruelty, to
people or animals; a peaceful man who lived his
life with seamless integrity.
I was so very, very lucky to have him. He will be
missed, every single day. It hurts immeasurably
that I can never hug or be hugged by him again,
that the younger children in the family will be de-
prived of him as they grow up, and most of all, that
he did not have more time. I know, though, what
Christopher was able to do in the time he had. I
will, as we Quakers say, “hold him the Light” all my
days. I hope you will too.
The way you hugged
Your quiet way of saying so much
The way you spoke
Your laughter
Your spark
Your tears
White dog needles everywhere
Falcon feathers
Hunting dance
And then,
That little dimple on your chin …
Chris, soaring bird
in my heart forever
Laramie, January 24, 1996