Conserve Wildlife Blog


October 26th, 2017

Kris Schantz, 2017 Inspiration Award Honoree

As a Principal Zoologist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, 2017 Women & Wildlife Inspiration Award Honoree Kris Schantz works with one of New Jersey’s most underappreciated and persecuted species: the timber rattlesnake. She earned her Masters of Science degree from Rutgers University based on a study of the rattlesnake and its habitat in northern New Jersey, and her passion in both learning and developing greater understanding of this species has helped improve its protection.

Ms. Schantz partners with academic and consultant biologists, as well as a number of reptile enthusiasts to accomplish the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s conservation mission. Her responsibilities have expanded to include other vulnerable snake species, such as the corn snake, northern pine snake, and scarlet snake.

One notable accomplishment of Ms. Schantz’s is her development of a Venomous Snake Response team, a program that serves the public by safely removing venomous snakes from areas where they may pose a risk. Volunteers and professionals in law enforcement, animal control, and parks management participate, and are trained by Ms. Schantz and other snake experts. Her work here also serves as an effective method for delivering conservation messages to the public about these often-misunderstood snakes.

In addition, through her responsibility of leading the development of the department’s Wildlife Action Plan, Ms. Schantz has proven her commitment to the importance of transforming and bettering wildlife conservation agencies and their work.

Ms. Schantz has gained the deep respect of the nearly everyone who works with imperiled snakes in New Jersey, and she serves as an example of passion, enthusiasm, and commitment in her field. She continues to grow as a professional, and to use her engagement in snake conservation work to further the mission of conserving New Jersey’s wildlife species.

Join us to honor Kris and the three other 2017 Women & Wildlife Award Honorees on Wednesday, November 1st beginning at 6 PM. Purchase events tickets and find more information.

CWF asked Kris a few questions about what inspires her to dedicate her career to New Jersey’s wildlife:


What is your favorite thing about your job?

“Working with so many incredible conservation professionals both within and outside of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Everyone brings their own strengths and knowledge, and working with them always gives me hope that we can/will protect our natural resources for future generations to enjoy and ponder.”


Name one thing you can’t live without.

“Work associates willing to capture and remove spiders from my office…I’m not a fan! I respect them, I don’t kill them, but I definitely prefer someone else conducting the relocation effort!”


Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best?

“I don’t have a favorite wildlife species although I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for those species most feared or hated by the public – snakes and bats. It’s important that we educate people about these animals so they understand their importance in the world and can at least respect them.”


Name one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to change the world.

Listen! Don’t ever think you know everything you need to about your prospective fields. Work with others in your field and compile and use that knowledge to make positive changes. Everyone brings something to the table.”


What do you find most challenging about your profession?

“Getting policy-makers and the public to understand the benefits of conservation efforts and making those issues a priority. It’s not just about liking wildlife or “hugging trees.” Every day our natural landscape provides us with “free” ecological services (e.g., cleaner air, cleaner and available water, etc.) in addition to improved quality of life (e.g., relieving stress)…we just have to respect and nurture it.”


 What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

“Hmm…this is a tough one. I enjoy outdoor activities (kayaking, hiking and working in the garden) but I also enjoy television shows with no basis in reality, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, for a thrilling escape!”


Please join us on Wednesday November 1, 2017 from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Duke Farms’ Coach Barn to honor the contributions that Jeannie Geremia, Kris Schantz, Kelly Mooij and Hazel England have made to wildlife in New Jersey.

We are excited to recognize the leadership and inspiration they provide for those working to protect wildlife in New Jersey. Women & Wildlife will also celebrate the timeless and inspiring journeys of wildlife migration in New Jersey and beyond.


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