John David Bittner

PASSAGES: REMEMBERING THOSE LOST IN 2020

East County News Service

December 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- They include the famous and infamous-- community and business leaders, a sports star, a youth sports coach, a wildlife expert, a hiking leader, foster parent advocate, loving parents and children, a civil rights leader and a notorious racist who once ran for Congress. They died of causes ranging from COVID-19 to other illnesses, accidents and  murder.  These are the people with strong ties in San Diego’s inland region, who passed on in 2020.


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PASSAGES: “HAWK WATCH” WILDLIFE RESEARCHER JOHN DAVID BITTNER DIES AFTER FALL IN SAN PASQUAL VALLEY

By Miriam Raftery

January 11, 2020 (Ramona) – John David "Dave" Bittner, 75, of Julian was known to many for the “Hawk Watch” programs he led for decades at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona that he founded, and later at the Begent Ranch.  On Thursday, Bittner died of a 50-foot fall suffered while rappelling down to replace batteries and memory cards in a camera near a Golden Eagle nest in the Bandy Canyon area in the San Pasqual Valley.

“We will miss him dearly and are so thankful for his work and dedication to saving wildlife and their special habitat,” the Wildlife Research Institute posting on its Facebook page.  The institute, of which Bittner served as director, pledged to continue hosting Hawk Watch and planned an impromptu memorial service this morning at the Begent Ranch.

Bittner and his wife,Leigh, had a passion for protecting wildlife and purchased 3,000 acres that they donated to the county to buy the Ramona Grasslands preserve and sell property to the Nature Conservancy as a wildlife preserve. That is home to many raptors, including bald eagles.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.