Park Rangers Face Deadly Threat: Other Humans

Guns, solo flying make for dangerous beat
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2010 6:13 PM CST
Seasonal ranger John Kerr poses in front of the wilds Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007, in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.    (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

(Newser) – You'd think that bears or mountain lions would be the biggest threat to rangers patrolling US national parks. But it's fellow humans, invariably armed, that pose the real danger. Two recent shootings, including one in Pennsylvania in which a wildlife officer was killed, highlight the growing risks, writes the New York Times. “We’re seeing a little bit more of the urban spill into the wild spaces—city violence in the country,” a National Park Service official tells the newspaper.

“I know that everybody I confront has a gun,” says one ranger. Poachers, legitimate but confused hunters, and criminals on the run pose the biggest dangers to rangers, who, because of the vast distances they must patrol, generally operate alone. Since they are afforded law enforcement powers, many pack weapons, despite mostly having backgrounds in the natural sciences. One ranger described his dual role as "a nice guy, prepared for an idiot who is ready to do me harm.”

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