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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Karl Christofferson

Dr. Karl Christofferson was born on June 13th, 1876, to Andrew and Lena (Foss) Christofferson. Karl's father was born in Norway, in 1850, and his mother was born in Wisconsin, together becoming one of the first Norwegian pioneer families of the state of Wisconsin. Lena Christofferson passed away at the early age of thirty-six leaving behind her two sons, the younger of which, Andrew, passed away when he was only three. Karl Christofferson received his early education in public schools and graduated high school at Rhinelander, Wisconsin. In 1896, he entered the Indiana Dental College, in the city of Indianapolis, and graduated in 1899 with a degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery. He went on to live and practice dentistry in Sault Ste, Marie for many years, also becoming very involved in local< politics although never running for office.

Christofferson, along with friend Michael Magee who was a well known naturalist in the area, began driving around the eastern Upper Peninsula checking on bird populations in 1913. Christofferson became so enamored with the work Magee was doing, banding birds, that one day he called the other dentists in the community to his office and told them he was "going back to Nature." At the age of fifty-one, he gave away all of his dentistry equipment and began his second career as the first superintendent of the newly created Munuskong State Park. His primary job was banding birds, but he was also in charge of improving and grooming the habitat to lure in more birds to the area. The work that< Christofferson did over the three years he spent at Munuskong appeared in the December 1927 issue of The Wilson Bulletin.

Christofferson then took a job, in 1930, as a naturalist for a new vacation facility named Blaney Park. The 33,000-acre Park had been logged by that time and the owners planned to build private cottages on the land with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and golf courts but with a goal to maintain wildlife on the land. Christofferson became the lead on this effort. He spent over thirty years at Blaney Park, as an animal keeper, running visitor education programs and banding birds, all while living in a fifteen-by-twenty foot cabin year-round.

Christofferson lived on into his nineties, and before his death in 1967, the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the Michigan Audubon Society and the Sault Naturalists honored him for his work. His records showed that he had banded over 30,000 birds in his lifetime. Christofferson left a lasting legacy on the eastern Upper Peninsula and the body of knowledge on migratory birds.

For more information on the Karl Christofferson, please visit the following:

Michigan County Histories: "A history of the northern peninsula of Michigan and its people" Alvah L. Sawyer

Blaney Park's bird man. (Karl Christofferson) Michigan History Magazine 92.4 (July-August 2008): p50(4). (1532 words) Reading Level (Lexile): 1230. http://


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