Alexander Wetmore, the Bear River Marsh, and the Rise of Waterfowl Science, 1914-1916


church history, Bear River marsh, waterfowl science


In the fall of 1915, a few days before the opening day of Utah's duck season, two guides were at a small shack on the edge of Utah's Bear River marsh busily preparing for the upcoming hunt. At the end of the day, a "tall thin chap" appeared outside the shack in a car with a large trunk. "[He] told me he was a professor of biology," reported "Jimmy," one of the guides. "I supposed it had something to do with bibles." Jimmy and his companion invited the visitor to dinner, after which they learned that rather than peddling holy writ, their new friend was a government scientist investigating the mysterious deaths of tens of thousands of ducks on the marshes of the Great Salt Lake over the last several years. After everyone had aired their respective views on the matter, the visitor then asked Jimmy if he was aware that lead shot was also lethal to waterfowl. "Yes," Jimmy responded innocently, "I have shot enough ducks to be acquainted with that fact." The response elicited a smile from the scientist, who explained that he meant lead pellets that ducks accidentally ingested while feeding rather than those taken more forcefully from the business end of a hunter's gun. The conversation continued into the evening, and on subsequent days Jimmy visited the biologist's research station nearby.

Original Publication Citation

Andrew H. Hedges, “Alexander Wetmore, the Bear River Marsh, and the Rise of Waterfowl Science,” Utah Historical Quarterly 87, no. 1 (Winter 2019): 8-23.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Utah Historical Quarterly




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor