Karl E. Bednarik, Jr., 88, of Genoa, Ohio, formerly of Oak Harbor, Ohio, died Tuesday, June 5, 2012, at Mercy-St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio.
Ohio’s chief waterfowl biologist and longtime manager of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area who was dubbed “Father Goose” for his work to restore the once-rare Canada goose, Karl E. Bednarik, Jr. died Tuesday of a stroke in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. He was 88.
He retired in 1987. He and his wife, Billie, moved to Genoa in the mid-1980s but lived on the wildlife area’s grounds before that, their daughter Cindy Rasi said.
He was hired as an ecologist at Magee Marsh by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources division of wildlife in 1951, the same year the wildlife area land was bought. “He was one of the early, prominent state waterfowl biologists,” said Steve Pollick, retired outdoors editor of The Blade.
Research and writing were part of the job, and Mr. Bednarik relished both. His letters to friends could be voluminous. Professionally, he wrote about wildlife and nature for magazines and journals. An early state-published book was The Muskrat in Ohio Lake Erie Marshes, based on a research he conducted at the Winous Point Duck Club in Port Clinton.
As supervisor at Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station, he oversaw studies on waterfowl and fur-bearing animals of the marsh and their mutual habitat.
During his career, he received 25 awards from national, state, and local groups. When he was named to the Ohio Conservation Hall of Fame in 1991, the state praised him for “developing the finest system of waterfowl management areas in America.” He was an influential member of the Mississippi Flyway Committee and helped initiate the Magee Marsh trail and boardwalk that gave the public up-close looks at migrating birds.
“He was rather modest about it, but everyone who knew him knew what a contribution he made in the area of conservation over the years,” his daughter said.
Mr. Bednarik’s signature program was his work to establish nesting populations of Canada geese, which by the 1950s couldn’t be found in Ohio. He went to great lengths — and heights — to bring the bird back. He traveled to Hudson Bay, Canada, and Minnesota in search of geese. He set up nesting platforms on five-foot posts to deter predators. “He was nationally heralded for his work,” Mr. Pollick said.
Mr. Bednarik appreciated birds, and he made sure hunters had access as well.
“He was highly scientific and tried to do always what was right,” said Rick Warhurst, a friend, protege, and former colleague who manages conservation programs in North and South Dakota. “He was concerned about the whole wildlife profession. Karl was a champion.”
Mr. Bednarik was a 1941 graduate of Barberton (Ohio) High School, where he and fellow students were among the youngest bird banders licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He was an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, serving on B-24s for 55 bombing missions over the South Pacific.
He received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from what is now Heidelberg University and a master of wildlife management degree from Ohio State.
Surviving are his wife, Arvilla “Billie,” whom he married Dec. 31, 1955; daughters, Cynthia Rasi and Patricia Bednarik, and sister, Emma Momchilov.
Visitation will be 1-8 p.m., Sunday, June 10, 2012, in the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home & Crematory, 165 E. Water St., Oak Harbor, with the family present 1-4 and 6-8 p.m.; a Parish Wake service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Prayers will be offered at the funeral home at 10:00 a.m., Monday, June 11, 2012, followed by the Funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m., at St. Boniface Catholic Church, 215 Church St., Oak Harbor. Burial will take place in Salem Township Union Cemetery. Memorials for Karl may be directed to the Nature Conservancy or the National Wildlife Federation.