The Ranger Zone

Mary Krauszer is Point Defiance Park’s first-ever park ranger. She’s also a roller derby skater and a fan of slugs
Photo by Rachel Coward

Photo by Rachel Coward

For the first time in its 128-year history, Point Defiance Park has a park ranger — Mary Krauszer, a 2012 University of Puget Sound graduate.

Krauszer, 26, started the job overseeing the 702-acre park overlooking Tacoma in June. She sports a park ranger uniform of her own design, drives a golf cart, and loves talking to park visitors as an interpretive guide, facilitating nature walks and talks, and informing them of all the possibilities the park has to offer. Sea lions, bald eagles, harbor seals, rabbits, raccoons, and more call the park home.

“My favorite day-to-day moments are when people ask me about animals and plants in the park, especially when people come up to me and say, ‘OK; I saw this bird — what was it?’” Krauszer said. “I always like to try to identify wildlife that people are seeing.”

Krauszer shared insight into her job, her passion for roller derby (her derby nickname is Nine Inch Snail), and why it’s not a good idea to feed the animals.

What inspired you to apply?
I grew up in Alaska going to Denali National Park. I always looked up to the park rangers. We always went to all the ranger talks and nature walks, and I really developed a love of the outdoors living in Alaska.

What prepared you for this role?
Before this position came onto the books, I was the park ambassador, which is the seasonal staff here at the Visitors Center, and I was working at the zoo in the education department. I have a biology degree from the University of Puget Sound. While I was pursuing that degree, I did student research, so I was out in the field researching sea stars. I did some of that research here at Point Defiance … I also did a short research project in the (Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium). And after graduating, I spent several years working in environmental education, so I did that through the Slater Museum of Natural History (at UPS), the Franklin Conservation District, and the Pacific Science Center.

What are your plans for a junior ranger program?
I will be basing it on national park and state park models. It will likely have an emphasis on park stewardship and nature education and park use. It will focus on teaching kids (how) we can use the park well and make sure that it stays safe, and appreciating all the things that are in it.

Why is feeding wildlife at the park detrimental?
A lot of people think it’s a nice thing to do to give a duck or a raccoon a snack, but it is detrimental to their health in a number of ways … junk-food-type human foods are not good for them. The other thing is that it changes their behavior. So, the raccoons are largely not nocturnal anymore here in the park. You can see them out on the roadside during the day. They’re also very aggressive and not at all afraid of humans and cars. It puts them at really serious risk of being struck by vehicles.

Why roller derby?
My league is a women’s league (called Dockyard Derby Dames), and it is a totally skater-run organization. It’s a full-contact sport, but it’s just for fun.

Why the moniker Nine Inch Snail?
I am a lover of slugs and snails — especially the Pacific Sideband snail. It’s always a treat to see it at work!

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