Owl Stories: A Window Into Pellets Inc.
The Bellingham, Washington area is renowned for many things. Its location between the mountains and the sea. Its recreational opportunities that range from snowboarding to mountain biking to sailing. Its music and arts scenes. Its proximity to Western Washington University. Its overall quality of life, which lands the so-called "City of Subdued Excitement" on Best Places to Live lists with some regularity.
But Bellingham is more than just a pretty place. The city has another claim to fame, one that it's safe to say most folks are unaware of: Thanks to Pellets Inc., it's the foremost supplier of owl pellets in the country.
Thanks to the Western Washington University magazine Window, the secret of Pellets Inc. is a little more well-known to the general public. A pair of articles in the publication details the story of the company and its connection to the college.
Of Owls and Pellets: Finding Owl Pellets and Founding Pellets Inc.
The main feature, called "In Business With Owls," gives the history of Pellets Inc., from its humble beginning to its current status as a powerhouse pellet purveyor. It opens with a quote by Bret Gaussoin (a name that's no doubt familiar to our blog readers) that says, "They look like fecal material. They're blackish and roundish. They crunch when you step on them because they have these skeletons inside them."
It's an opening designed to draw in the reader and from there the piece goes on to talk about exactly what owl pellets are, where owl pellets are found, why they're such valuable and interesting teaching tools and how Pellets Inc. became what it is today.
For those of you who don't know, it all started at Western Washington University. That was where Bret, who, according to the article, was an "enthusiastic student with just one thing on his mind: learning all he could about birds of prey" met biology professor Irwin Slesnick. Though Bret never took a class from Slesnick, he collected owl pellets for the professor, who was a "pioneer in the pellet industry in the 1970s and '80s."
It was also where Bret met Kim, "underneath an umbrella in Red Square," at the center of the university campus. The two would date, marry, have children—and start their own business collecting owl pellets for dissection. With Bret's gift for knowing how to find owl pellets and Kim's business administration degree, they had a solid foundation from which to build. That foundation solidified even further when Slesnick agreed to sell them his pellet business.
The remainder of the Window article discusses the modern-day Pellets Inc. operation, and what having a home-based owl-pellet-business looks like. Turns out it's a family affair, and the definition of family includes not only Bret and Kim, but also longtime employee Alan Tobias and a dedicated crew of collectors tasked with finding owl pellets. It takes a village to keep Pellets Inc. running smoothly, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Barn Owl Pellets: First Comes the Bird
But Window wasn't done with Pellets Inc. just yet. In another piece called "Owls: A Closer Look" that ran in conjunction with the main feature, Bret talks about the barn owls that supply the materials that fuel Pellets Inc. Along with facts about the fascinating birds, Bret also discusses why barn owls are particularly valuable for rodent control and where in the world they're most likely to be used to protect agricultural crops.
Bret also explains why most of us are more likely to spot barn owl pellets than we are to see an actual barn owl in our day-to-day lives, despite how common they are. And why we've probably heard them before in our neighborhoods without realizing it. The article ends with information about an owl species that's becoming prevalent in the corner of the Pacific Northwest that Pellets Inc. calls home, where you might see one, and why you might not want to try and make friends if you do happen to come across one.
While we've covered some of the basics here, we encourage you to check out Window for yourself and read the full story of Pellets Inc.!