Bernard F. Halla, 63, wildlife official who aided wild turkey comeback in Md.

November 07, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Bernard F. Halla, a former state wildlife official whose efforts helped the wild turkey make a comeback throughout Maryland, died Sunday of a heart attack at Arundel Medical Center. He was 63 and lived in Queenstown.

As director of the Maryland Wildlife Administration from 1977 to 1988, he was a hands-on administrator, walking the fields and woods and studying waterways. He counted tiger salamanders, osprey nests, eagles and Delmarva fox squirrels.

"Our eventual aim is to learn about Maryland's game and nongame creatures so that we can preserve them as a valuable resource for the benefit and enjoyment of the public," he said in an Evening Sun article in 1974.

Mr. Halla "spent time in the field, in deer camps and getting the pulse of what the people wanted and always had his constituency at heart," said Bill Burton, retired Evening Sun outdoor editor. "However, his bottom line was that he wasn't going to manage natural resources simply by public opinion alone. They would be managed by what was best for the welfare of the resource."

Mr. Burton pointed to the comeback of the wild turkey as perhaps Mr. Halla's greatest and lasting accomplishment.

Wild turkeys, nearly extinct by the 1960s, were found only in Garrett and Allegany counties in Western Maryland. A state program to capture the birds and establish new populations throughout the state proved successful.

"Today, we have a wild turkey season and birds in 23 counties in Maryland," Mr. Burton said.

Known as "Bud," Mr. Halla was born and raised in Kensington, Conn. After graduating from high school, he served in the Marine Corps and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut at Storrs. He also did graduate studies in wildlife management at the University of Rhode Island.

He began his career as a biologist with Rhode Island Fish and Wildlife Department in 1961. He came to Maryland in 1966 to head the state's forest game management programs.

In 1977, he was appointed head of the state's Wildlife Administration, which later was merged into the Department of Natural Resources. He retired in 1988 and worked as a wildlife consultant.

"He was the kind of guy who cared more about wildlife than just about anyone I've ever known," said Dr. Torrey C. Brown, former DNR secretary. "He worked hard to make government help not only the hunter and nonhunter but the animals as well. He had the ability to look at and understand the total ecosystem.

"What he accomplished is greatly in evidence today. He was one of those people who significantly contributed to the making of what Maryland is today," Dr. Brown said.

Mr. Halla was a member of Kent Island American Legion Post No. 278, the Grasonville Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and the Bay Country Moose Lodge in Queenstown.

A funeral liturgy will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Christopher Roman Catholic Church in Chester, Queen Anne's County, where he was a communicant.

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, the former Katherine Atchison; two sons, Michael J. Halla of Stevensville and Stephen D. Halla of Haddonfield, N.J.; two sisters, Shirley Kilpatrick of Farmington, Conn. and Jeanne Ingrick of Bristol, Conn.; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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