Memorable Manitobans: William Graeme “Bill” Leitch (1914-2009)
Born at Winnipeg on 28 September 1914, son of Jim and Ethel Leitch, his love of nature and the prairie landscape was instilled in his early youth. He was an enthusiastic Boy Scout and in 1930 was a member of the team that won the Wallace Nesbitt Junior Championship First Aid Competition. Boyhood waterfowl hunting expeditions with his father on Lake Manitoba, together with his formal education, led to his becoming one of North America’s more well-known and distinguished waterfowl biologists. He attended Wesley College prior to entering the University of Manitoba from which he graduated in 1938 with a BSc degree in zoology and geology. In 1939, he enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot officer, retiring in 1945 with the rank of squadron leader. He then enrolled at the University of Toronto where he studied wildlife management. Returning to Winnipeg, he continued his studies at the University of Manitoba and graduated in 1952 with a MSc degree in wildlife ecology.
He worked for Ducks Unlimited Canada for 38 years, first joining the organization in 1939 as a field biologist. After the war, he re-joined the company and in 1951 was appointed Chief Biologist, a position he held for 26 years until his retirement in 1977. His published works included Ducks and Men: Forty Years of Co-operation in Conservation (1978), Fireside Waterfowler: Fundamentals of Duck and Goose Ecology (1987), and numerous technical and professional papers.
During his long life, he received many recognitions for his work in waterfowl conservation. Two were the Professional Wildlife Conservation Award bestowed by the Province of Manitoba and the establishment of the William G. Leitch Habitat Project, in the Coteau Hills of Saskatchewan. He was an avid skeet shooter and was one of the founding members of the Winnipeg Skeet Club, serving as its president in 1966. He was the Manitoba Skeet Champion in 1963 and the 410 Gauge Champion in 1969. He remained an enthusiastic skeet shooter until the final months of his life.
He died at Winnipeg on 2 January 2009.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 10 January 2009.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 29 November 2015
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