As the head of the most successful band in Sanford High’s history (The Tidalwaves), no one was quite sure what Bill Silliker, Jr. would do after high school. He loved playing drums, but he also carried a camera around everywhere he went. His parents were in the restaurant business and the family moved eighteen times throughout the area during his early life. Following college, Mr. Silliker decided to serve his country and led a secret life for many years… as a CIA Agent. He was an imagery analyst for the CIA at the National Photographic Interpretation Center, the same department that discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba in the 1960s.
Despite a very successful job, Mr. Silliker’s real passion was nature and wildlife photography. When he discovered that a 1,000 unit development was proposed for Goosefare Marsh in Saco, he took action. Mr. Silliker decided to capture some of the magic of this wonderful place on film. It was when showing some of those photographs to a neighborhood gathering that he really understood the power of photography. That neighborhood group decided to organize a coalition. In 1989 the coalition, using Mr. Silliker’s photographs, convinced the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy to borrow $2.3 million and quietly purchased all the lands intended for that Goosefare development project. It was their largest purchase in Maine to that date. After the marsh became part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the Saco coalition formed the Friends of Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge, linking all the communities involved with the refuge sites. Mr. Silliker was its first president. Before the group was formed the refuge received a little more than $600,000 for land acquisition. Since the friends group was formed, the Rachel Carson refuge has since received over $20 million in land acquisition funding. That money has saved a lot of special acres. And it all started with a guy from Sanford High School with a camera.
With the support of his wife Mary-Ellen, Bill left a perfectly comfortable life and dedicated himself to his calling. Through his extremely hard work, Mr. Silliker became Maine’s most renowned wildlife and nature photographer. He quickly became nationally recognized in photography circles as the "The Mooseman.” His pictures were published in magazines including Audubon, Backpacker, Down East, Field & Stream, National Geographic, Outdoor Life, Outdoor Photographer and Sports Afield, and overseas publications in Japan and Germany among others. His remarkable pictures have been featured on ESPN, the Discovery Channel, NBC's "Today" show, and his recent clients included L.L. Bean, The Nature Conservancy, Outdoor Photographer magazine, the Forest Society of Maine and the Trust For Public Land. He served as a columnist for the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Sunday Telegram and the Maine Sportsman and gave regular workshops and slide show lectures for local camera clubs.
When he wasn't taking pictures, Mr. Silliker also co-chaired the ethics committee of the North American Nature Photography Association, served on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Non-Game Advisory Council and the Fujifilm Talent Team. He was a board member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and a professional member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). He also authored eight books. Mr. Silliker passed away suddenly last October while conducting a nature tour at Baxter State Park. While most nature photographers were notoriously secretive of their favorite spots, Mr. Silliker was happy to share them with anyone interested. Just before his death, he wrote, “In these times of international troubles, it's important to remember that having a safe world involves more than freedom from terrorism. The entire planet needs the help of those who understand that some natural places are special and should be protected.”
Books by Mr. Silliker:
"Wild Maine: Discoveries of a Wildlife Photographer" (2004, Down East Books)
"The Master Guide for Wildlife Photographers" (2003, Amherst Media)
"Just Loons: A Wildlife Watcher's Guide" with Alan Hutchinson (2003, Willow Creek Press)
"Saving Maine: An Album of Conservation Success Stories" (2002, Down East Books)
"Moose Watchers Handbook" (2001, R. L. Lemke)
"Just Eagles" with Alan Hutchinson (2000, Willow Creek Press)
"Uses for Mooses, and Other Observations" (2000, Down East Books)
"Moose: Giants of the Northern Forest" (1998, Firefly Books)
"Maine Moose Watchers Guide" (1993, R. L. Lemke)