Jack Miner, also known by the nickname “Wild Goose Jack,” is considered to be the Father of Wildlife Conservation in North America. He established one of the first wildlife sanctuaries in Canada on his property in Kingsville, Ontario, where he pioneered the practice of banding waterfowl in order to track their migratory patterns.
John Thomas (Jack) Miner was born on April 10, 1867 in Westlake, Ohio. When Jack was 13 years old, the family moved to Gosfield South Township, near Kingsville. Shortly
thereafter, Miner became a professional trapper and market hunter to supplement the family’s income. However, he quickly realized that professional hunting was decimating wildlife populations in the area. Miner, a devout Christian, believed that the Bible’s message of humankind’s “dominion” over the animals really meant that humans were responsible for their care and conservation. At the time, this was truly a new way of thinking about humankind’s relationship to the natural world. Miner quit his job as a market hunter and began advocating for responsible hunting in order to revive devastated animal populations. In 1902, Miner started the Essex County Game Protective Association, which was one of the first of its kind in Canada. Then, in 1904, Miner built a sanctuary dedicated to protecting waterfowl like geese and ducks. Not only did Miner provide safe haven for these overhunted species, but he also began tracking their migratory patterns. He did this by tagging geese and ducks with aluminum bands – a practice which he pioneered. Come winter, the birds would begin their migration. Hunters who found one of these banded birds would contact the sanctuary to provide a location. The data collected from bird banding led to a much greater understanding of migratory patterns to the south, information that had previously been unknown to scientists. The data also inspired the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty in 1916 which was an agreement between Canada and the U.S. that restricted the hunting of waterfowl to conserve their populations for the future.
The sanctuary, which included large ponds and gardens that attracted flocks of waterfowl and song birds, drew thousands of tourists every year including famous visitors like Henry Ford and Ty Cobb. Aside from his work at the sanctuary, Miner lectured across North America to help raise awareness on the importance of protecting wildlife. Miner found that visitors and supporters were eager to donate money so he could continue his work at the sanctuary. So, in 1931, Miner founded the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation, a charitable organization which served as the funding body of the sanctuary. The foundation and sanctuary still operate to this day and continue educate visitors about humankind’s responsibility to the natural world.
In 1943, Miner was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his achievements in the field of wildlife conservation. The following year, Miner passed away on November 3, 1944. To honour his memory and his activism, the Government of Canada passed legislation on April 18, 1947 which declared the week of Miner’s birthday “National Wildlife Week.”
“About Us” and “History.” Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation (n.d.).
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Mcnicholl, Martin K. and Erin James-Abra. “Jack Miner.” Canadian Encyclopedia (December 18, 2007).
Miner, Jack. Jack Miner and the Birds and Some Things I Know About Nature (Simon and Schuster, 1976).
Miner, Jack. Jack Miner: His Life and Religion (The Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation, 1969).
“OWAA charter member Jack Miner.” Outdoor Writers Association of America (n.d.).