Karlin Ziegler is pictured here with "Majesty," a red-tail hawk at Zollman Zoo in Byron. Ziegler takes over duties as manager at the zoo and Oxbow Park after five years as a park naturalist. Photo by David Richards
By David Richards
It's a quiet, early spring day and Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo have that bright and sunny feel to it.
Perhaps it's the warmer temperatures or because the bear is out of hibernation (he doesn't truly hibernate, of course) or the fact the park has a new manager.
About the only thing that's missing are the prairie dogs, who stay underground all winter and have yet to peek their heads.
"When I think of a county zoo, this is not what I think of," said Karlin Ziegler, the park's new manager. "We have a special place that some people don't even know about."
Ziegler does know about it. She's spent the past five years as a park naturalist here, spending countless of hours with the animals and the visitors, and countless more thinking she'd never want the job she has now.
"I was like, 'no way I would want to be park manager,' " the Hayfield resident said. "Now, I want nothing more than to see this place thrive. It's a good challenge, and I accept, to keep this as the gem of the county."
Ziegler was promoted to the position in December, taking over for Kevin Crilly who moved with his family to Iowa.
While Ziegler shares the same passion for the zoo that Crilly did, they have a few differences.
Crilly's least favorite animal, for instance, was the cougar because she has an attitude. Ziegler's favorite is the same animal for the same reason.
And does Ziegler like snakes?
"I do," she said. "He did not."
Ziegler, 35, is originally from Marshall and moved to Hayfield six years ago. She earned a Bachelor of Science from South Dakota State in biology and has worked at both the Watertown, S.D. Zoo and the Indianapolis Zoo.
"I've always had a passion for animals," she said. "I always had pets, more than my parents wanted. We probably wouldn't have had any pets if it wasn't for me."
Ziegler has big expectations for the zoo. In the short term, she's wrapping up plans for a new animal to arrive this spring.
A giraffe, perhaps?
"Well, it has to be from Minnesota, so that would rule out a giraffe," she said.
While she's keeping the new animal a secret, one thing she did talk about are the plans for natural playscapes, a place for kids to play that are made of all natural materials.
The brain child of Crilly, the playscapes are set to open in 2014, and Ziegler is happy to be a part of it.
"It was Kevin's idea, and we're running with it," she said.
In addition to the zoo and all the paper work she now has, Ziegler is also in charge of the zoo's volunteers.
"She's doing a great job," longtime volunteer Jean Davison said.
As for now, Ziegler is enjoying spring and her new position and, it turns out, the return of some old friends.
"Oh look, the prairie dogs are up," she said, walking past their den.