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Nature Center presents animal show

New superintendent 'Ranger Frank' oversees Placerita Canyon park programs

Posted: December 27, 2008 8:21 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Sylvester, a gopher snake, smells the air during the interactive presentation at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Saturday morning.

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Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center's relatively new superintendent, Ranger Frank Hoffman, and a group of recreation services leaders presented a live, interactive and educational animal show to several Nature Center visitors on Saturday.

With a red-tailed hawk named Kia mounted on his arm, docent specialist Roger McClure of Canyon Country educated the age-diverse crowd sitting in an outdoor amphitheater about the hawk's life and characteristics.

"(The red-tailed hawks) are very common in the area and are not on any endangered-species list," McClure told the audience.

The park's specialists also presented a gopher snake, a California brown tarantula and an opossum.

Lilly Dalessandro, 8, said her favorite part of the show was learning how the hawk doesn't like to go on the bottom of trees but that it likes to go to the top.

Her sister Katie said she learned that spiders shed their exoskeleton.

The Nature Center hosts the weekly animal presentations from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

The Dalessandro girls' mother, Andrea, said she hadn't attended the presentation in a while and enjoyed the educational experience.

"I loved it - it was very informative and I love learning about the nature we have so close and around us in our own community," she said. "I like that it's outside and that they bring the animals around to look at. It's a fun way for the kids to learn."

As the regional superintendant, Hoffman assured the audience the park staff serves the community.
"We're here for you," he said. "It's your park, we just run it."

The park's previous superintendent, Ian Swift, left in October to take a biologist position at Contra Costa Water District in the Bay Area. Swift was passionate about the park and left on good terms with the city and community, but Hoffman, who took over after Swift left, seems to share a similar enthusiasm for the park, his job and serving Santa Clarita.

"I get paid to wear a raccoon hat," said Hoffman, who is referred to as Ranger Frank by many. "I get to work outdoors. I get to work with wild animals and the children and adults of Santa Clarita."

Hoffman's experience at the park dates back to 1995, starting as a recreation-services leader. After seven years, he left to accept a supervising position with Antelope Valley community parks and other positions in Quartz Hill and Val Verde. About four years ago, Hoffman returned to the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.

"I came back because I love this place and I love this facility," he said.

Hoffman even got married under an oak tree in the park in 1999.

As superintendent, Hoffman is responsible for the daily operation of the park, overseeing the welfare of the animals, the staff, the volunteers and for reporting to the county. He also manages regular and special park programming, accounts for management directly and absorbs the responsibility of the current construction project, he said.

"It's a lot of responsibility. I accept the responsibility with open arms," he said. "I have a strong team here, and they make my job very easy. We work collectively together as a unit here, we're all one."

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