June 9, 2016

Dr. Leslie Mills Tuck


(July 22, 1911 – May 11, 1979)

Dr. Leslie Mills Tuck was born at Shoal Harbour, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. He taught school in Newfoundland and went on to continue his studies at memorial university College and Harvard University. His contact at Harvard with one of the Deans of North American Ornithology, Ludlow Criscom, further kindled an already established interest in Natural history. Upon Confederation with Canada in 1949, Dr. Tuck was appointed the province’s first Dominion Wildlife Officer, an association with the Canadian Wildlife Service that lasted 27 years until his retirement in 1976 as a Research Scientist.
Dr. Tuck’s professional career really began in his early teens when he started collecting land snails for the Carnegie Museum. His collection continued with mosses, bryophytes and insects. A number of these species had never before been described. Some were named after him and his regular contacts with scientists at Carnegie and elsewhere in those early years helped provide him with an enthusiasm for living things that he maintained all his life. “Les” Tuck’s consuming interests were to learn and tell others about our natural world and this he did in a most outstanding way. One of his very first endeavors in 1950 was the formation of a Newfoundland Natural History Society which with its monthly meetings and annual Christmas Bird Count he was active until near his death.

Dr. Tuck’s research took him to many places, especially in the New World. He often worked summers in the Arctic and winters in the Southern States (particularly at the Rockefeller Refuge in Louisiana) and in Venezuela and Guyana. He produced some 60 professional and popular publications. He is the only Canadian to have received the coveted Wildlife Society’s Terrestrial Publication Award on two occasions – for his monographs on The Murres in 1961 and The Snipes in 1973. In addition to these prestigious awards Les Tuck was awarded an honourary degree of Doctor of Science from Memorial University in 1965, elected a Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1975, and awarded the honourary degree of Doctor of Science from Acadia University in 1977. Also in 1997, Memorial University appointed Dr. Leslie M. Tuck as the J.L. Paton Professor (Research) in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Tuck greatly cherished this position and with renewed enthusiasm continued work on the preparation of a definitive book on the birds of Newfoundland.

Unfortunately health and time would be the deciding factors and his book on Newfoundland avifauna was never completed. And after a five year battle with blood cancer he passed away on May 11, 1979. His extensive library and unpublished materials were bequeathed to Memorial University of Newfoundland, where a scholarship fund has been established in his name.

The Wall of Fame Committee recommended that Dr. Tuck be inducted into the Society’s WOF in 1997 – an especially appropriate year since it is the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

WOFC – 19 September 1996