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Published: Sunday, 6/18/2000

Klosterman stands alone in Ohio

The many outdoors women of Lucas County have something in common with the new state wildlife officer assigned here. Gender.

The new "game warden," Kandy J. Klosterman, is one of only three women commissioned as state wildlife officers - among some 130 in all in the Ohio Division of Wildlife. And she is the only one currently serving on the "thin green line," as the often-solitary duty of wildlife-law enforcement is called.

The other two state wildlife officers, Sara Jean Peters and Linda Keesecker, currently are serving in education slots. Peters is urban-education officer for the Ohio Division of Wildlife in Columbus, and Keesecker, who was assigned as the wildlife officer in Van Wert County six years, now is outdoor-skills officer in Wildlife District 2 at Findlay.

"This is something I always wanted to do. It's my dream job,'' said Klosterman, who began her duties June 4. She succeeds Gary Stephens, who served in the county 20 years.

Wildlife officers have a wide array of duties, from enforcing fish and game regulations to supplying information on everything from ducks to deer, walleye to warblers. They often patrol alone - at least until they need backup.

In contrast to the still-low numbers of women in wildlife-law enforcement ranks, more and more of them are filling police ranks. In Toledo, for instance, 145 women are listed among the ranks of 690 patrol and command officers. Of 40 rangers policing the Toledo Area Metroparks, six are women.

Though the post of wildlife officer traditionally has been a man's job, that does not bother Klosterman. "I want to be part of the team. So far the people I work with are like my brothers. They've been 100 per cent supportive."

Still, she adds, "every time you go to a different place (assignment), everyone wants to know if you can do the job. It's kind of a test. When I started out I knew what I wanted to do but I had no idea how hard it was.

"If we get more women officers, the more respect we'll get from sportsmen and women. They're not exposed to them (female wildlife officers) and don't know how to react."

A native of Celina, the roots of Klosterman's career go back to Hocking College at Nelsonville in southeast Ohio, where she earned an associate's degree in fish-and-wildlife management.

She attended and graduated from the Ohio Police Officers Training Academy in 1995, and then signed on with the Ohio Division of Wildlife as a seasonal worker at the Wolf Creek State Wildlife Area in Morgan County. She worked her way up to a permanent position as a wildlife area technician in 1996 at Killbuck State Wildlife Area in Wayne County.

As she worked, she continued to apply for a slot in the state's wildlife officer training school, and the list of applicants can be long. After three tries, she was admitted and graduated from the school in 1999.

Klosterman then was assigned as a wildlife officer-at-large in central Ohio, working in a seven-county area in and around Franklin County and becoming grounded in the daily duties of the job. Lucas County is her first full-time assignment to one county.

Right now she is working hard to learn the geography of the county, its wildlife areas, hunting and fishing sites, and all the outdoors stops from bait stores to gun shops. Klosterman will make a point of attending meetings of various sportsmen's clubs to introduce herself and to get to know her public.

For the time being, she can be reached through Ohio Wildlife District 2 headquarters at Findlay, 419-424-5000.

"Even though I'm a female, we're all on the same path as far as fishing and hunting in Ohio. I hunt and fish myself." Her favorite hunting is for wild turkeys and waterfowl. She has no special fishing preference - "I just like to get out."

Which sometimes can be a challenge for wildlife officers, who often are so busy fielding calls and checking complaints that it can be difficult at times to take time for themselves. Still, Klosterman would not have it any other way.

"I love what I'm doing."

Steve Pollick is the Blade's outdoor writer.



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