Paul D. McClain - Ocean County's Environmental Hero - Passes Away

by Patricia A. Miller

One of the first times I saw Paul D. "Pete" McClain in action was 20 years, during a kayak tour of the Sedge Islands in Barnegat Bay.

Then-Governor Christie Whitman was on the tour too. At one point, our guide stopped on a small island and told us to take a break.

And there was Pete McClain, joyously holding up a slimy horseshoe crab, extolling its virtues to the visitors. Some didn't look to thrilled, but Pete looked like he was holding up the Hope Diamond.

Sadly, word has come that Pete died today, with his family at his side. He had been ill for some time. Pete's death is Ocean County's loss.

He volunteered for decades to teach the lore of Island Beach and the Sedge Islands. He still owned one of the few "shacks" left on the Sedge Islands.

Above all, Pete was a modest man. The last time I saw him was in 2013,  when he spoke at a seminar at the Interpretive Center at Island Beach State Park.

He downplayed his role in resurrecting the osprey population in New Jersey despite the fact that he was one of the founders of the New Jersey Osprey Project.

"I had some very fine people to help me," Pete said at the seminar. "The program just blossomed after that. I did have the help and it was nothing I did by myself."

McLain joined the state Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife in 1951. By 1974, he had risen to the position of deputy director. He decided to try and bring back the ravaged osprey population back to the Jersey Shore and Island Beach.

McLain founded the Osprey Project along with Teddy Schubert, a conservation officer with the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. The two traveled to Maryland, where osprey eggs were healthier because there was less pesticide contamination and more nesting areas.

McLain and Schubert made the often perilous climbs to osprey nests high in the sky - sometimes dropped in by helicopter, sometimes by clambering up utility poles - and removed some of the healthy eggs.

The healthy eggs were put into incubators, then trucked back to New Jersey. They were then gently placed in osprey nests at Island Beach and down the coast, in the hopes the osprey parents would accept the new eggs.

They did, almost immediately.

To read the rest of "The Osprey Whisperer of Island Beach" - published last year, , click here: http://berkeley-nj.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/osprey

Patch will publish the details of McClain's services when they become available.

Bill Storm, June 07, 2014 at 08:56 AM
You'll be missed Pete but remembered for all the good that you accomlished. Rest in peace, you deserve it.
Helen E. Fitzsimmons June 07, 2014 at 12:39 PM
Beautifully written and heartfelt tribute, Pat.
Patricia A. Miller June 07, 2014 at 04:04 PM
Thank you, Helen. Pete was such a nice man.
Jenny Novak June 08, 2014 at 08:44 AM
I worked for the Division of Fish & Wildlife from 1976 to 1985; the last two years as Pete's secretary when he was Deputy Director. He was truly a colorful guy, who really cared about the endangered wildlife species, not only in New Jersey, but world-wide. He was an avid sportsman, fisherman, outdoor writer, extremely well traveled & one of the best joke tellers! His many stories were a pleasure to read. He will be missed by many, and whenever I see an osprey, I think of him. Jenny Novak
Bonnie Delaney June 08, 2014 at 09:00 PM
Thank you, Pat Miller for that spot on tribute to Pete McLain. Pete was one of a kind. Gruff, but warmed up when he started talking about his beloved osprey, bay, etc. I will always remember how he rallied shack owners (leases) to build osprey platforms and install them around Sedge Islands.


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