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News Remembering Bill Byrne

MassWildlife lost a great friend and advocate when Photographer Bill Byrne passed away unexpectedly this May. For over 40 years, Bill opened a window to the wilds of Massachusetts with his incredible photography.
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for Remembering Bill Byrne

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

MassWildlife Photographer Bill Byrne with a loon

For over four decades, the spectacular photographs taken by MassWildlife Senior Photographer Bill Byrne have brought sportsmen and women and other conservationists, up close and personal with countless wildlife species from across the Commonwealth. Bill's stunning images ranging from breaching humpback whales, foraging black bears, and secretive piping plovers to urban peregrine falcons, majestic Quabbin moose, and elusive timber rattlesnakes have opened a window to the wilds of Massachusetts and the fascinating residents therein.

Sadly, Bill's life ended suddenly and unexpectedly in May. He literally spent his last moments doing what he loved: being outdoors, honing his skills as a photographer, and talking photography and wildlife with colleagues and friends.

After a military tour in Vietnam, where, as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, he taught soldiers how to rappel from helicopters, Bill graduated with a Wildlife Biology degree from the University of Maine in Orono. He started working with MassWildlife in 1971 as an assistant on white-tailed deer and waterfowl management projects. He transitioned to Wildlife Photographer within a year and used his education and skills as a hunter and naturalist to enhance his success with his camera.

Byrne is best known for his striking images of bald eagles, moose, black bears, shorebirds, waterfowl, deer, wild turkeys, and many other species, thousands of which have appeared on the cover of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine and other agency publications. MassWildlife staff relied on Bill to make their public presentations come alive complementing their data and other information. His prints grace the walls of the Richard Cronin Field Headquarters building in Westborough and are enjoyed on a daily basis.

Curious about wildlife and wildlife behavior from his youth as an explorer scout, Bill was an accomplished biologist, birder, tracker, and observer, with a keen eye and strong attention to detail. Working day and night to get the shots he needed, he could be found in ground, tree or water blinds, boats or trucks. Other times he would be waist deep in swamp water, perched on a bridge or building with falcon nests or snowshoeing into the remote and wild corners of Massachusetts. Bill never stopped learning about wildlife or photography. His career spanned the era of developing black and white film in a cramped dark room to the instant gratification of color digital imagery and editing.  Bill successfully tackled the challenge, making the shift from film to digital imagery with energy and enthusiasm.

Bill was an avid and successful deer and turkey hunter. In 2017, he connected three times during the Massachusetts and Connecticut deer seasons. During one particular archery hunt, despite having two buck tags in his pocket, Bill put down his bow and picked up his camera to photograph an inquisitive 6-point buck because he liked the way the deer presented itself through the lens! It's unlikely that many other archers would have been able to exercise similar restraint and discipline.

In a recent Massachusetts Wildlife magazine issue, Bill presented a photo essay of fish-eating creatures, including bald eagles, ospreys, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, minks, and common terns. For the two mink shots alone, Bill invested tens of hours, patiently sitting and walking the Cape Cod Canal looking for the opportune moment. These and his other images are lasting testimony to Bill's incredible patience, knowledge, and skills. Bill’s wildlife legacy will continue through his beautiful images, inspiring and educating us all for years to come.

Media Contact for Remembering Bill Byrne

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.