Robert (Bob) Redhead

Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Robert (Bob) Redhead

Biologist, traveller, fisherman, joker, mentor. Born May 4, 1941, in Victoria. Died Dec. 29, 2011, in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, B.C., of a heart attack, aged 70.

Parks Canada and the outdoor and scientific communities lost an elder with Bob Redhead’s passing.

Bob grew up on the B.C. coast. His father was a British Columbia Provincial Police officer, so the family was posted to various communities in the 1940s. Bob explored the wilds of Ucluelet, Port Albion, Telegraph Creek and Prince Rupert with his parents, George and Ruth, and younger siblings, Tom and Muriel. He developed a love for the outdoors and a passion for fishing.

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He later became an avid sportsman, excelling in hockey and track and field. His interest in biology led him to earn a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia, and his master’s of science from the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Combining his love of wildlife and travel, Bob spent time working in New Zealand, Canada and Africa, including teaching wildlife and game management in Moshi, Tanzania. His approach to ecological management was one that he continued to use throughout his career: “Begin by connecting with the people who love the resource, no matter how disparate their interests may appear at first.”

Everywhere he worked, Bob made connections, often learning some of the local language. He was respected by the aboriginal and non-aboriginal people of each area he lived in.

Bob’s 35-year career with Parks Canada took him, his first wife, Robin, and their three children, Christopher, Emily and Ben, to many national parks including Auyuittuq, Gwaii Haanas, Wood Buffalo and finally Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island. In his second marriage, to Michelle, he became a father to his stepsons, Benjamin and John David. On his wedding day, Bob and his best man slipped away for a “quick fish” before the ceremony.

Bob had a cheeky side. When writing reports he was known to occasionally slip in outrageous recommendations to make sure those reviewing the report were indeed reading closely.

He would regularly take a holiday in summer to guide for a Ucluelet sport-fishing company. Ever the scientist and the joker, the sign on his office door would not read “Gone fishing” but “Conducting random sampling of salmonid and halibut populations!”

Bob was continuing his work on salmon stream restoration when he died at the Parks Canada resource conservation office in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation offered to perform a cleansing ceremony for people present at his death and those affected by his passing.

Standing under the West Coast sky around a fragrant wood fire in one of Canada’s wild places was a perfect way to say farewell to such an elder.



By Silva Johansson and John McIntosh, Bob’s friends and colleagues.

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