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The N.B. police officer who was also a world authority on worms

Target practice was all in a day's work in 1989 for John Reynolds, but his passion was for creepy crawlies.

Fredericton oligochaetologist had a more mundane day job in policing

A seriously wiggly hobby

33 years ago
Duration 2:50
A Fredericton cop devotes his off-work hours to oligochaetology, or the study of worms, in 1989.

Target practice was all in a day's work for Insp. John Reynolds, but the Fredericton police officer's passion was for creepy crawlies.

"It's an obsession that's probably incurable," said CBC reporter Dan Bjarnason, as Reynolds was seen in uniform at a shooting range in a report for The National on Nov. 28, 1989.

In "another life, away from the office," Reynolds devoted himself to oligochaetology, or the study of worms.

"They come in every colour of the rainbow, and a number of others," said Reynolds, trying to explain what was so "wonderful" about worms. "You know, they come in iridescent oranges, blues, purples."

Leading scholar

The officer's collection of 100,000 worm specimens had been donated to the Canadian museum of natural history. (The National/CBC Archives)

For fun, Reynolds served as the judge for Fredericton's annual worm race and was seen interviewing a child about a worm named Stuffy.

But Bjarnason said he was one of the world's "leading scholars" on the subject, showing diplomas for his scientific degrees, jars of preserved worms, stacks of scholarly papers and some of the "half-dozen" textbooks he'd written.

"Moisture's so important because they have to breathe through dissolved oxygen in the skin," said Reynolds as he showed the reporter some live worms.

Bjarnason reviewed some of the positive attributes of worms — "they're harmless," he said.

"And children love them, until adults poison their minds," he added.

Not a family favourite 

Reynolds applied his expertise to Fredericton's annual worm race. (The National/CBC Archives)

Reynolds said his oldest daughter had been "one of my best field hands" during collecting expeditions until the age of five or six.

"But then, her friends and other people's parents began to talk about ... how yucky worms were," he said, seeming to look pointedly at someone off-camera. 

Reynolds had even named two new worm species after loved ones, but it hadn't swayed either to appreciate his efforts.

"It didn't work. Neither daughter nor wife want anything to do with worms — nor this story, thank you," said Bjarnason. 

Reynolds's wife apparently did not share her husband's interest in worms. (The National/CBC Archives)

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