On W.K. Kellogg the conservationist

Starting Oct. 2, Kellogg Company announced it will be dividing into two independently traded companies. Kellanova will handle all the snacks and WK Kellogg Co. will handle cereal brands. When people think of Kellogg’s, they tend to think Corn Flakes, Pop Tarts and Raisin Bran. But I think of the Canada goose.

Some call them Canadian geese, but that would just mean any goose from Canada. Canada geese, however, are one of the most recognizable waterfowl in North America. Their trademark V formation flies overhead, honking as they go — north in the spring and south in the fall. These are undeniable signs of the seasons changing in states on the bird migration paths. Though in much of the United States, Canada geese are seen year-round. Hawaii is the only U.S. state where you won’t see them at all.

Traffic stops in suburbia for Canada geese with goslings trailing behind each spring. They nest on lawns in front of businesses and on golf courses. In the fall, you see them gathering and grazing in grassy patches along roadsides and preparing for their southern destinations. But if it weren’t for W.K. Kellogg, you might not see them at all.

The first book project I ever worked on was for W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, a field station in West Michigan that is part of Michigan State University. The university contracted me to help write the history of how Kellogg’s summer home on Gull Lake became a place of all things science for MSU. The resulting book is called “In The Founder’s Footprints.”

Conservation was part of KBS’ start. W.K. Kellogg’s interest in waterfowl goes back to 1900, when he attended a lecture on game birds given at his brother’s sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he was employed. No hunting restrictions existed at the time and many habitats were being destroyed by either deforestation or by draining of the wetlands to establish more farms and industry. By 1923, the Canada goose was a threatened species. Kellogg’s intrigue grew as he attended more lectures and even visited author Jack Miner’s “Goose Sanctuary” in Canada during the spring of 1924. He witnessed 6,000 migrating birds congregating at Miner’s preserve for hunted waterfowl. Kellogg eventually opened a bird sanctuary of his own on his West Michigan property near the smaller Wintergreen Lake in 1927. It was just down the road from his beautiful manor house, and they both remain today.

In February of 1965, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary hosted its first Canada Goose Ecology Seminar with the intention of advancing goose management practices in the Great Lakes area. The Kellogg flock provided original stock for satellite flocks of nesting, free-flying Canada geese and collaborated with interested universities and organizations. These releases and others made by the Sanctuary throughout the 1960s were supplemented by releases made by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources.

Today, Canada geese are everywhere, and their comeback was so successful they can now be hunted in the fall during their own designated season. A Canada goose is not just any old goose from Canada. They are indeed special. They are a living testament to the true possibilities that lie in conservation. Next time you snack on Pringles from the new Kellanova snack brand or enjoy a classic bowl of Raisin Bran from Kellogg’s, do so in gratitude for W.K. Kellogg’s conservation efforts that saved the Canada geese.

Check out Bonnie’s weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp.


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