KEA friend and well-known wildlife educator, Kris Buchler passed away last Thursday.
Just like the song birds, Kris Buchler was an early riser. She never hesitated to rise at the wee hours of the day to make the trek out to the wilderness to hear their morning calls. She had an ear most of us could not imagine; able to decipher one bird from another just by their song. When in the forest, it was if she spoke their language and spent much of her time sharing and teaching this gift to others.
Past President of Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Janet Torline recounts, “I was invited to join Kris for a bird count at Farragut State Park a few years ago. After a one way 2 hour hike we stopped to listen to and count the numerous songs of many bird species. I came away realizing that of all the years that I had walked through the woods, I might as well have been deaf. Kris shared so much knowledge and joy in her understanding of how the winged beings broadcast the news in their habitat and forest community. The take away for me was stop and listen; have patience and be willing to learn what other beings are communicating. Walk with open ears and heart. Kris exemplified all of that.”
Many know Kris from her work in educating and advocating for our winged friends. Kris could be found almost anywhere a venue existed to share her passion for birds. She was a licensed raptor rehabilitator with Birds of Prey Northwest, served on the City of Coeur d’Alene Natural Open Space Committee and spent 12 years with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game focusing on wildlife education and curriculum development. In a leading role with the Coeur d’Alene Audubon Society, she created bird identification classes and educational programs, led many bird counts and monitored bird populations in the area for more than 17 years. Kris also co-founded the WREN Foundation which creates wildlife programs for community youth. Kris was awarded Kootenai Environmental Alliance’s Art Manley Lifetime Conservation Award in 2012 to recognize her unwavering advocacy for wildlife in the Pacific Northwest.
“I can’t believe Kris is gone, we have worked together for so long on so many projects, it doesn’t seem possible that she will not be teaching with me again. We both loved teaching children about wildlife, especially birds. We travelled around North Idaho to so many schools to take the raptor program far and wide. Her dance card was always full. In July we presented on the Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Osprey Cruise and in December, we would turn our topic to the Bald Eagles, but we never tired of seeing the National Bird swoop down and pluck a kokanee from the water. Each September we headed to Leavenworth, WA for the annual weeklong Wenatchee Salmon Festival to present to hundreds of 3rd and 4th graders from central Washington Schools and the public. We would teach about raptors, animal tracks and a crowd favorite, do owl pellet dissections. Her energy was endless. Kris was a great co-teacher and an even better friend.” Says Beth Paragamian.
“Kris Buchler was one of the strongest women I know. She changed the lives of so many through her advocacy for birds and habitat, and through her endless care for others. Regardless of her health or life circumstance, she was always volunteering her time and knowledge to benefit seniors, children, animals, everyone. Her enthusiasm and energy changed lives. She most definitely changed my life. Without question I would not be the woman, mother, or biologist I am today had I not met Kris. She shared her immense knowledge of bird identification, bird songs and sounds with me over the last 14 years and that changed my career path, it changed my family, and it changed my spirit. Her absence from our community will leave a gaping hole for some time. It will take the efforts and investments of many other to fill that hole, but she has many people whose lives she has touched that are up to that task.” Says Carrie Hugo, Wildlife Biologist with BLM.
Kris was always with the love of her life, Ed. Ed and Kris moved to north Idaho in 1993 from Maryland where they had raised their three children. They had just celebrated their 52nd Wedding Anniversary.
She will be greatly missed.