Suzanne Stutzman is a lover of wild things and places.
It is not uncommon for her to go backpacking in Alaska or be a guest speaker at an educational event to teach people about wolverines.
And whether it be a day hike in Colorado or a trip …
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And whether it be a day hike in Colorado or a trip out-of-state, Stutzman will travel with a small, handmade journal and basic art kit.
Stutzman grew up in Illinois and has lived in Golden since 1988. She is an artist, author of an educational children’s book, one of the first women to join the Golden Optimists and served the national parks for 35 years.
Stutzman is passionate, her friend Miki Stuebe said.
“She gets more done because of her energy, enthusiasm and expertise than anyone I know,” Stuebe said.
During her career with the National Park Service, Stutzman got to work in parks across the U.S. And although she loves the abundance of outdoor recreation in the Golden area, her favorite parks are the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve located in the San Luis Valley, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and California’s Sequoia National Park.
It all started when Stutzman read a book called “Anatomy of a Park” in college. She learned from the book that “people actually plan parks.”
“When I graduated,” Stutzman said, “I thought, if I’m going to plan parks, I want to plan the best parks.”
Stuebe and Stutzman met about 15-20 years ago while working at the National Park Service together. Because of the many commonalities the two share — both professionally and personally — often they understand each other without needing to talk, Stuebe said.
“She continues to impress me, and everyone around her,” Stuebe said. “I’m honored to have been able to work and play with her over the years.”
Prior to her retirement in 2012, Stutzman heard about M56, a lone wolverine tagged with a transmitter in 2009 that wandered into Colorado — making him Colorado’s only known wolverine.
Wolverines used to live in Colorado, Stutzman said, but were trapped out in the 1930s.
According to The Wolverine Foundation, wolverines are not federally listed as endangered or threatened, but there are some concerns for the animal in regards to climate change reducing its habitat.
There are good populations of wolverines in the north, such as Canada, Alaska and some northern U.S. states, Stutzman said, but all movement to reintroduce them in Colorado has been stalled for several years.
M56’s transmitter quit sending signals in the fall of 2012. His whereabouts were unknown during the ensuing years, but he kept roaming — M56 made it as far as North Dakota when he was shot by a rancher in April of this year.
Wolverines are “interesting wild animals,” Stutzman said. Thus was her inspiration to write and illustrate “Send Me a Box of Wolverines,” a children’s book that was published in 2014.
“I want people to cheer for wolverines coming back,” Stutzman said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of with reintroducing them.”
Stutzman hopes the book, which is noted on The Wolverine Foundation’s website as being “carefully researched and … accurate about the natural history of wolverines” inspires people to learn more about the animal.
“I’m all for wildlife preservation,” she said. Reintroducing wolverines would help to create “a healthy ecosystem before it’s too late for them.”
Stutzman will be reading “Send Me a Box of Wolverines,” at 3 p.m. June 26 at the Windy Saddle Café, 1110 Washington Ave., in Golden. The event is free and family-friendly. It is geared toward children, she said, but will be fun for the parents, or any adult who would like to attend.
Stutzman didn’t do a lot of artwork in the midst of her career and raising a family, she said, but she’s “always enjoyed art and artistic things.”
Then, in 2011, she started taking classes at the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, manager of the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens, always enjoys having Stutzman in class, she said.
Once, Hjelmroos-Koski said, the class was focusing on birds, and Stutzman brought a real carcass to class for everybody to draw and sketch. Although comical, it did help.
“We like to illustrate from specimens,” Hjelmroos-Koski said, “not so much from photos.”
Stutzman will always travel — whether it be a day hike in Colorado or a trip out-of-state — with a journal and art kit. Her preferred mediums are pen and ink and watercolor.
Fifteen pieces of Stutzman’s artwork is on display at the Denver West Barnes and Noble until the end of June.
In fact, her artwork received national attention. The Flora of the National Parks exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. features two of Stutzman’s pieces. The exhibit, which began on Feb. 18 and runs through Oct. 2, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and showcases plant species found in national parks across the U.S.
Stutzman’s pieces on display is a watercolor and pen and ink depiction of an Alaska birch and arctic dwarf birch found at the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska, and a graphite depiction of a giant sequoia found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California.
Colorado flora is well represented in the exhibit, but Stutzman was the only artist from Colorado, representing the Denver Botanic Garden, who was able to attend a special meet-the-artist event in April.
Stutzman is “an outdoor person, for sure,” Hjelmroos-Koski said. “It was nice to have our representation there.”
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