Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
View of the pond at Felix Neck
Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown

Remembering Gus Ben David

July 09, 2024

It is with a heavy heart that we received news of the death of Gus Ben David—a naturalist and Martha’s Vineyard legend who was the first director of our Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in 1969.

From the time he helped start the Fern and Feather Nature Camp in 1964 through the 36 years he was director at Felix Neck, and even through an extended illness until his death on July 4, Gus was a force for nature and conservation, the living embodiment of Mass Audubon’s mission.  We can proudly share that we are furthering the legacy of Gus by celebrating our 60th year of the Fern and Feather Camp.

Man standing near window with hand on chin

Gus Ben David, Felix Neck's First Sanctuary Director

Professionally, Gus had few equals. The U.S. government certified him as an eagle rehabilitator, and his adopted golden eagle, Chameli, was known far and wide. Also, as the founder of the Osprey Project, Gus was personally responsible for the number of nesting ospreys on the island increasing from a single pair to more than 100 decades later.  To share the osprey success story, we will be erecting a kinetic osprey sculpture created by a local Island artist this fall.

But it was his work with thousands of children on the Vineyard that had the biggest impact.

Gus shared with generations of young people the wonders of animals and nature. Whether it was Chameli or the smallest of salamanders, Gus used the animals he cared so much about to get children interested in the natural world around them. While some went on to become naturalists or conservationists, all of them developed more appreciation for nature because of Gus and the staff at Felix Neck that continues this work today.

Someone like Gus can never be forgotten, and his loss is keenly felt by all who knew him. While we extend our sympathies to his friends, family, and loved ones and mourn his loss, we also celebrate his unprecedented life’s work and many accomplishments. His legacy of work serves as an inspiration to everyone who continues at Mass Audubon as Mass Audubon’s Islands team further the Martha’s Vineyard conservation, wildlife protection, and education mission that he held dear.