gregory felzien yellowstone science

Gregory Felzien

Big Cat Protection is a Family Tradition

I remember that it was at church, many years ago, when my mother handed me a copy of National Geographic.  She said it was a cousin of mine and commented on the strange coincidence that he and I both loved exotic cats so much.

On the cover of the magazine was a young man, holding a tranquilized cougar in the snow.  The story inside was about mountain lion researcher who had been tracking the elusive big cats in Yellowstone National Park when he was killed in an avalanche.  A couple years later this article appeared in Yellowstone Science.  Somewhere, I surely still have that Nat Geo Magazine, but I don’t know where.  It had been filed away and I didn’t think much about this long lost cousin until today.

Gregory Felzien would have been fifty this year.  As I began researching the web, looking for details of his story and his photo, I was stunned to be reminded that he had died in February of 1992.  That was about three months before Windsong the bobcat was born, and 9 months before Windsong’s rescue from a taxidermist would launch the world renown organization that is saving exotic cats, that is now known as Big Cat Rescue.  This was Greg’s story:

Gregory Felzien Dies in Yellowstone Avalanche

From: The Jackson Hole Guide

Gregory FelzienA 26-year old Ohio man was killed in an avalanche in Yellowstone National Park Saturday while tracking mountain lions in the Lamar Valley area.

Gregory Felzien of Bellbrook, Ohio was conducting mountain lion research activities in Yellowstone for the Wildlife Research Institute, affiliated with the University of Idaho at Moscow, according to Park Superintendent Bob Barbee.

After Felzien was reported missing Saturday evening, an air and ground search began Sunday morning, Barbee said.

Searchers found Felzien’s car parked along the road, south of Pebble Creek Camground and near Mt. Norris, according to park Spokeswoman Marsha Karle.

They followed Felzien’s foot tracks through a minimal snow cover and located his body in the avalanche area Sunday at about 2:26 p.m., Karle said.

The avalanche path was about 30 feet wide, 300 feet long and five feet deep, she said.

Felzien’s body was transported by helicopter to the Buffalo Ranch in the Lamar Valley and then by ground to the Franzen-Davis-Bebee Mortuary in Livingston, Mont., according to Barbee.

Officials blamed the slide on early spring weather, which resulted in extremely hazardous backcountry snow conditions.


The Family of Cat Protectors

Thanks to and the fact that Gregory’s aunt LaDonna is still alive and was probably the one to give the magazine to my mother back 20 plus years ago, I was able to trace the connection between us.  My mother, Mary Barbara Jean Norris Stairs, was born to Jaqueline Thompson Norris, who was born to Goldie Higginbotham, who was the sister to Grace Higginbotham, who was married to Floyd Grant Felzien, who were the parents of Gregory S. Felzien.

gregory felzienf amily tree

So, Gregory, I have no doubt that you are with us every step of the way now, and surely have been for all these decades.  I have to believe that you live on in all of us who are working to save wild cats from extinction by ending the captive trade that provides the smokescreen for illegal poaching.   My awe at your dedication and sacrifice to protect some of the world’s most exquisite creatures is renewed today, and gratitude fills my heart.


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