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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Halvor L. Skavlem

Halvor L. Skavlem was born in 1846 to pioneering Norwegian immigrants, near Beloit, Wisconsin. Growing up, he received a country school education. He spent nearly all of his life in Rock and Jefferson counties in Wisconsin. After finishing school, Skavlem moved five miles down the road from his parent's home and began teaching in the winter and farming in the summer. He then moved to a farm adjacent from his parents where he married Gunnil Ommelstad, together they had four children. In 1880, they moved to Janesville Wisconsin where Skavlem served in a number of positions including county sheriff, county highway commissioner, and librarian. In 1896, after 50 years in varying business endeavors, Skavlem retired.

A self-taught naturalist, Skavlem eventually settled on a farm at Lake Koshkonong where he spent the remainder of his long life. The site of his farm was an ancient Winnebago Indian village. Skavlem dedicated all of his time to studying Native American culture and ornithology. Skavlem possessed extensive knowledge of the regional geology, plant, and animal life. He was the author of a monograph on the feeding habits of the canvasback duck, published a number of articles in ornithological journals, and accumulated a 300 specimen collection of local birds that was later donated to the Janesville public library.

To learn more about Halvor L. Skavlem, please visit:

Mossman, M. J. (1990) Halvor Skavlem, the "John Burroughs of Wisconsin." The Passenger Pigeon, 52:324-338.

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