Thank the Kellogg Brothers For SW Michigan’s Black Squirrel Population
It was strange moving to Michigan, and realizing there are squirrels that aren't red or grey in this country. I'd only ever seen the "ginger" squirrels back home. BUT, it makes sense that some variations in color would exist.
But why are there many black squirrels in southwest Michigan, specifically around Battle Creek? Turns out, you can thank a local legend for that.
Michigan is one of only a few places in the country where black squirrels can be found. Similar to black cats, some might see the black squirrel crossing the road as a bad omen. But according to the Kellogg brothers, the black squirrels aren't the enemy... it's the red ones!
According to a recent article we posted about Urban Legends in Michigan...
"Kellogg's cereal founder W.K. Kellogg was said to have imported black squirrels into Michigan. This wasn't a curse on the state, but rather, it was a measure to counter what Kellogg apparently considered the real evil: red squirrels, which were overpopulating his company's grounds."
The Black squirrels, are not, however, actually their own breed of squirrel, but rather a genetic trait of eastern gray squirrel, and the fox squirrel. And, most larger populations of black squirrels are the result of reintroduction programs, similar to what the Kelloggs did in Battle Creek.
Another theory as to why the Kellogg's introduced the black squirrels to southwest Michigan has to do with conservation.
"The present population of eastern gray squirrels in Battle Creek, Michigan was reportedly introduced in 1915 by John Harvey Kellogg, who wanted to repopulate the area with the species after their populations were devastated in the previous centuries by predators and human hunters."
John Harvey allegedly got 400 Eastern Gray Squirrels from Kent County, including some black morphs, and released them.
So populations of black and grey squirrels in southwest Michigan now, likely all descended from these 400 squirrels brought in by the Kelloggs in the early 1900s.
So that's why southwest Michigan, especially the Battle Creek area, has so many black squirrels, and according to literature, black squirrels are considered to be of royal blood. So the next time you see one, pay your respects, because you're in the presence of royalty.