William Satterfield, Steve Sherrod, Ralph Rogers, William and Joan Mattox, Samuel
and Marcia Lindberg, Robert and Carol Berry, Mike and Karen Yates, Paul and
Linda Mascuch, Kurt and Jennifer Burnham, Phil Vance, Toni Marosok, Patricia
Burnham, Bob Collins, The Barnes Family, Ruth and Brian Mutch, Carl Thelander,
Montana Falconers Association, North American Falconers Association, and an
Anonymous Friend in Science
Toms interest in falconry and birds of prey was kindled in his early teen years, and quickly became a passion that
raged within him until his passing at the age of 58.
By the time he unexpectedly left us in December 2016 Tom had become
a talented and respected falconer, hood maker, falcon breeder and biologist, an internationally recognized authority on tundra
peregrine falcons, a devoted husband and father, and a treasured friend to many within and without the falconry community.
Toms boyhood home in Geneva, Illinois was convenient to some of American falconry’s finest practitioners. He sought out those (like
Jack Oar and Jim Weaver) who could help him learn and excel at falconry, and was delivered to their homes by his mom before he could
drive. It was quickly apparent that not only was he born to the art of falconry, but that he would attack it and his every other undertaking
wholeheartedly. Lifelong friend and hawking partner Sam Lindberg recalls a cold Illinois day when Toms red-tail caught a cottontail that had
run across a frozen quarry pond, and the pair broke through the ice. Without hesitation Tom not only retrieved them by breaking ice until
immersed to the armpits, he humanely dispatched the rabbit during his return to shore while uttering a whole lot of words his mother never
taught him. Tom and Sam traveled west after high school graduation, crossing the Bighorn Mountains to the area east of Cody and meeting
other falconers on their western tour. Tom would come to call Sheridan, Wyoming his permanent home base before long. Tom and Sam
volunteered as hack site attendants for Peregrine Fund release sites along the Mississippi, honing their rappelling skills on local rock faces.
In 1981 Tom was elated at being invited to participate in the Greenland Peregrine Falcon Survey. During the ensuing 18 summers he
would prove to be one of its most essential assets. Fearless, tireless, knowledgeable, capable and dependable, he was a constant that
everyone relied upon to assure the work was completed successfully and safely. A founding member and later Director of the not-for profit
Earthspan (along with peregrine research colleagues such as Mattox, Seegar, Yates, Fuller and Whitney), Tom participated in or oversaw
many of their projects on peregrines and other species. He directed their Padre Island (TX) Peregrine Falcon Survey for two decades,
conducted field work in South America, Mexico, Alaska and Russia, and authored or co-authored numerous scientific publications.
As a young adult Tom never wanted to own any more possessions (and most of those falconry-related) than he could fit into his pickup for a quick
and clean getaway. All that changed in 1989 when he met Kathy at South Padre Island during the peregrine survey. They were soon married, relocated
to Boise and later welcomed daughter Ireland. Fervent game hawking with falcons and English Setters, innovative field research and dedication to
family and friends were the constants in his life. Returning to Sheridan, he created Bighorn Environmental Consultants; its success was attributable
not only to his manifest talents but the fact that everyone who ever knew Tom liked and respected him. He was embraced by the local community,
sat on conservation and wildlife panels, was a spokesperson for environmental issues, flew gyrfalcons at sage-grouse and raised gyrs in captivity.
So many falconers are captured at an early age, marching to a drummer they never sought out and are powerless to
resist. Tom embraced that journey and made it his own, carving out a life we can all admire. Everything falconry and
our natural world gave him he repaid tenfold through his tireless quest to leave it all better than he found it. His was
a life well-lived but far too brief, and Toms many friends within our community will forever feel his loss.
Remembering Tom:
A talented & respected falconer
By Mike Yates
Photos above by Bill Sattereld
Of Tom Maechtles many areas of interest and activity, other than falconry and hood-
making, one stands foremost: Greenland peregrines. Tom went to Greenland first in 1981; he
traveled there each season until the last one in 1998, when the Greenland Peregrine Falcon Survey
ended operations. Bill Seegar took over from Scott Ward in 1979 and was our Army contracting liaison
in Greenland for 18 seasons. Other than Bill’s sterling support and participation in the field, Toms
record of field activity and fidelity to our cause remained unsurpassed among the 90 participants
who volunteered to fly to Greenland and hike the tundra surveying the peregrine’s status.
I co-founded the Survey in 1972, and later came to rely on Toms field strength and knowledge of routes,
best campsites, nesting locations, and survival techniques. In the first seasons he and Jack Oar kayaked
the area of Taserssuaq (North) west to the outflow at tidewater. They found most of the nest cliffs on the
north shore of the lake. As the first team to find nesting falcons in that area they had the privilege of naming cliffs; so we find place
names like their wives Kathryn and Connie, as well as descriptors of events or local conditions and people like Lost Knife, Wentland,
Mosquito, and Fitchs Backbone. In the 1985 season Tom had Greenlander Kâle Siegstad as his kayak partner, so some Danish or
Greenlandic cliff names crept in like Taserssuaq (large lake), Guleklippen (golden cliff), and Kiagtup ûmîve (place where it is easy
to land or launch an umiaq). It was here they were able to climb up the cliff face directly out of the kayak to access the new eyrie.
Near tidewater, almost at the western extent of Toms travel, he named Unnga, Helle, and Golgoth. Tom used such local place names
because he had deep appreciation for the culture and rugged landscapes of Greenland. And he knew what the names meant.
In later seasons Tom paddled the shores of Taserssuaq with Mark Haley, Mark Robertson, Ralph Rogers, Bob Rosenfield,
and four seasons with Phil Vance, who spoke in most humorous terms about his adventures with Tom.
After we received Danish and local
government permission to capture
and tag adults at the eyrie, in early
summer of 1983 a so-called Advance
Team of Tom, Bill Seegar, Tom
Nichols, and Mike Yates flew in a
helicopter to nest cliffs. After roping
down to the eyrie, Tom placed the
eggs in a padded box, put it in a safe
place near the eyrie, and set a noose
gin over dummy eggs. Then Tom
ascended and found a hiding place
with his radio, rope and climbing
gear. The other team members
spotted, and radioed Tom when the
falcon had returned to the eyrie and
was caught. Then all hell broke loose
as Tom made some world-record
rappels down to the eyrie to grab the
falcon and replace the eggs. One year
he reported tagging and releasing the
falcon at the eyrie. He then started to
climb back up, only to have her stoop
him and get caught on the noose
ring tied to his backpack. So there
he was half-way up the ascent of a
steep rock face, both hands gripping
the rope or ascenders, with a noosed
falcon screaming right in his face.
You just can’t make this stuff up!
Tom’s passion: Greenland Peregrines
by Bill Mattox
Photo above by Bill Sattereld
Left photo above by Bill Sattereld