It is with a profound sense of loss that we announce the passing of Mike on March 8, 2023. As a lifelong Christian Scientist, we do take comfort in knowing he has now reached his ultimate, spiritual perfection and his eternal home in Heaven, no longer bound by his material body.

Michael was born in Missoula, Montana on December 5, 1954, to William Wayne and Imogene Lee Dunkelberger. He was soon followed by two brothers, Paul and Robert. Upon his father’s graduation from Montana State University, the family moved to California where his sister, Wendy, was born. The family finally ended up in Humboldt County after his father took a position with PG&E. Michael lost his father at an early age and after his mother remarried, his youngest brother, Guy, was born.

Michael attended local schools, Elk River School, a one room schoolhouse, South Bay Elementary, Winship Junior High, Eureka High School, graduating in 1973, followed by College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University.

One thing we can say about Mike is he was always his own man, never a follower. He marched to the beat of his own drum.

Mike was a man of many interests. From an early age he was fascinated by the sciences. Biology and geology were his were his main interests, with Herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, being at the top of the list. While the neighborhood kids were off climbing trees, playing sports or other childhood pursuits, not Mike, he would be found catching frogs and salamanders or digging fossils. Somehow, along the way, we were roped into joining him, wading in swamps, lifting downed trees, seeing what we could find. As an adult, he had a diverse collection of reptiles, large and small.

This love of biology was a lifelong passion for Michael and eventually his career. This led him to continue his study of reptiles and amphibians throughout his life, acquiring a vast knowledge of the subject. Even though biology and herpetology were his passion, he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and major in geology at HSU. During his time at HSU, Mike worked at Pacific Lumber Company as a millworker, and he would continue this employment after he left HSU. During a conversation with the then-President of Pacific Lumber Company at the annual logging conference, he discussed what he found in the field during his own personal studies. This led to an interview with their biology department, the President telling them they “needed to talk to this guy.” He was hired on the spot. He continued as a wildlife biologist until his retirement in 2018. He loved his job, and we were so proud of him!

Along with herpetology, geology was a huge part of his life. He amassed a large collection of rocks and fossils. Collecting Jade from the local river-bars was a frequent pursuit. He loved the annual gem and mineral show and if you were lucky enough to attend with him, you would inevitably come home with more knowledge about geology and a fossil or two.

Other interests for Michael were airplanes and volcanos. He was an avid photographer with some photographs published in herpetology magazines and books. He was also a member of the American Fuchsia Society for over 25 years.

Michael took immense joy in imparting his knowledge to others. He took any opportunity he could to mentor others about the world and the creatures that live in it. We all learned a lot from Michael. When you needed an answer to anything, you could just ask Mike. The world lost a great mind on March 8th.

Michael’s greatest love was his family. His family meant the world to him, he loved them to “pieces,” and they loved him. Family gatherings were the absolute best. He would bring his special, homemade pies and he always mashed the potatoes! As much as he could, he stayed in touch with his extended family, far and wide.

Michael is survived by his mother, Lee Bravo, and Stepfather, Larry Bravo. Brothers Paul and his children Cliff (Alexis) and Cidnee (Brett), Robert and his children Aaron, Jason, and Serena, Guy Bravo, his wife Tina, and their children Jonathan (Karen), Daniel, David, and Justin. Wendy Heard, her husband Bart and their children, Dylan (Erica), and Sophia. Great niece and nephew Wolf Dunkelberger and Brooklyn Heard, and his beloved cousin, who was like a brother to Mike, Jon Bristow, plus a large, extended family and dear friends.

Michael was predeceased by his father, William Wayne Dunkelberger, his Grandparents, Harold and Luella Dunkelberger, Dwight, and Vesta Claire Bristow. His aunts and uncles, Beverly Lovejoy, Anita Sanders, Dwight and Gary Bristow, Harold (Ben), Chris, and Mason Dunkelberger.

A celebration of life will be on Sunday, June 4, 2023, at the River Lodge, 1800 Riverwalk Dr., Fortuna, CA, beginning at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, if you wish, memorial contributions may be made to the Humboldt Area Foundation, Michael W. Dunkelberger Science Scholarship, to support students pursuing a degree in the sciences or to the charity of your choice.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Mike Dunkelberger’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email