Responsible Pet Ownership

Responsible Pet Ownership: Cat Courtesy Pixabay Genocre, photographer
Courtesy Pixabay
Genocre, photographer
Our Homes, Our Pets, and Our Natural Environment: Supporting Coexistence through Responsible Pet Ownership.

Nature perseveres in even the most built environment. The cycle of life continues, in our parks, our backyards, and the green spaces in between. Hawks hunt for rodents, rodents forage for seeds, and both seek out mates, no matter how temporary.

We rarely pause to consider how the ‘wildlife’ we bring with us impacts the natural world around us. Our dogs, from stoic german shepherds to the fluffiest toy poodle, are descended from wolves. Our cats, distant relatives of the middle eastern wildcat, are arguably semi-domesticated, after only 12,000 years of human intervention. Perhaps in another 12,000 years the common house cat will be as perky and eager to please as the average golden retriever, but I doubt it.

No matter how loving, our pets are descendants of great predators and they have the ability to negatively impact the fragile ecological balance that persists around us. Some simple commitments allow us to continue to coexist. First, spay and neuter your pets. Unplanned litters contribute to animal shelter crowding and stray populations. Intact pets are also more likely to roam, and to disturb and harm wildlife.

Second, maintain control of your pets at all times. It may be adorable to watch your fox terrier romp unhindered through an urban park, but she is potentially searching for rodent burrows and bird nests to demolish with glee. Your cat is a fierce predator, with the unfair advantage of a delicious and reliable supply of cat food. The ready flow of calories you provide gives fluffy the energy to hunt with enthusiasm. Keep your dogs on a leash or under voice control and your cats indoors. If your feline demands fresh air, consider building her an enclosed catio. Generations of demanding cats have ensured that the internet contains instructions for easy and affordable catio construction.

And last, take a moment to observe and appreciate the vibrancy of life around you. All around your home, animals are hunting, eating, breeding, and dying. Nature has found a way, and we all have responsibility to respect and protect our local natural ecosystems and the essential biodiversity that relies on the interconnectedness of all it’s parts.

I’m Stacey Frisk with the Cache Humane Society and I’m Wild About Utah!

Images: Courtesy Pixabay, genocre collection,
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver
Text:    Stacey Frisk, Director, Cache Humane Society,
Included Links: Hilary Shughart & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster,

Additional Reading

Catio Spaces,

2020/2021 Bridgerland Audubon/Cache Humane Society Feline Fix Project

Cats Indoors, Bridgerland Audubon Society,

How cat advocates can allocate time and other resources for the biggest impact, Bays, Danielle Jo, Animal Sheltering magazine, Humane Society of the US, Winter 2018-2019,

Inspired by diagrams for healthy diets, the community cat pyramid encourages a holistic approach to cat management and a strategic use of resources. Graphic by Patrick Ormsby/The Humane Society of the United States
Inspired by diagrams for healthy diets, the community cat pyramid encourages a holistic approach to cat management and a strategic use of resources.
Graphic by Patrick Ormsby/The Humane Society of the United States

Cache Humane Society,

Flippant Gripes and Labyrinthian Gratitude

Flippant Gripes and Labyrinthian Gratitude: In summer I begin to gripe and wear increasingly larger hats. Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
In summer I begin to gripe and wear increasingly larger hats.
Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
I love the sun. Now, I don’t always like it, but I always do love it. It’s a relationship that is both iterative and consistent, built by years of experience and yet left open for surprises. It provides, draws me out, pushes me inside, and draws me out once more. Like the four valves of our hearts, the seasons each give new direction.

In winter, I seek it out and try and absorb as much vitamin D as I can. I can appreciate that it gives us nutrition, life, longevity. I inhale as I look up and if I try hard enough I think I can gently photosynthesize. If I get real desperate, I’ll make my optometrist’s scorn roll out of my mind as I play some lighthearted sunstare, burning a gentle nimbus of black into what was once a perfectly fine astigmatism.

In spring I feel as though I can count myself among the ilk of flowering trees, alien hybrids in their own right. The sun bakes my own winterlogged bark, and I too reach forth beyond my skin. I use my palms as leaves stretching upwards and my warmed respite as flowers. I allow myself to feel awakened, thawed beyond simply thawing, and into growth. I exhale as I look up and warm my bones by that big yellow fire in the sky.

In summer I begin to gripe and wear increasingly larger hats. I deeply feel what semi-arid means, and eventually begin to ponder if that’s just marketing against the surely true aridity I feel. My dormant joints rediscover their ranges of motion and youthful play blooms perennial in my lexicon. And, it gets hot. Hot hot. My love, though, does not wane as I seek increasingly dense shade through the season. This love persists in the dog days of summer because while I pant in lily-skinned evapotranspiration, a life of hard winters reminds me to hyperphage my vitamins while I can. I inhale as I look around and see the life which feeds from the sun just as I do. We are all in the same boat.

In fall my solar binge takes full stride, paired neatly with cool winds foreboding the coming darkness. Just how summer mirrors winter, fall mirrors spring as I stock up and prepare for another winter. As want gives way to need, I try and push the sun into my own roots. I store memory, reflection, and nostalgia in one cellar, and hard cider, wild berry jams, and garden salsa in the other. I exhale and stoke the coals which will carry me to yet another spring.

So this spring as you, too, are finding your own leaves and flowers bend to the fresh-stoked fire in the sky, I invite you to reflect upon your own relationship with the sun. See how it molds you. Feel your gripes as flippant and your gratitude as labyrinthian. Hear how it draws the world in and out of breath. Even if you don’t always like it, discover how you love it.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.

Images: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center,
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon,

Going In With a Child’s Naturalist Eye

Going In Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Going In
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
In Kathryn Lasky’s picture book “One Beetle Too Many”, we read, “Charles [Darwin] learned the names of everything he collected, for to know the names of these things was important, and it might be the one time when adults would actually listen to a child speak.” As an elementary school teacher, I ponder its message, reflecting on my wilderness experiences enriched by children. In fact, some of my best discovery days have been when I was led by a curious child.

As a Stokes Nature Center camp leader one summer, my focus for the day was on alpine forest plants as we set out on a northern Utah trail. I carried plant presses and field guides, ready to teach how to identify a Douglas fir from a Lodgepole pine and to have them hug quaking aspens blindfolded to discover distinguishing characteristics of each trunk. These youngsters were going to learn every forest fact I could share, I thought, but they quickly taught me the meaning of naturalist John Muir’s quote: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

Black Fly Larvae Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Black Fly Larvae
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Not thirty steps from the trailhead, I witnessed natural inquiry at its best, and it was facilitated by these seven- and eight-year-olds. Few things are as fascinating and magnetizing as running water, and they’d found some. The day before, we’d hiked along Temple Sawmill beaver ponds, scooping up stonefly and midge larvae and designing our own dams, so I was gearing up for another muddy adventure. Instead of sloshing, though, Franny instantly noticed some wiggly black things stuck to the rocks, and the children huddled together around the smooth rocks in the trickle, peering at them with their hand lenses in this impromptu sit spot. “Hey, do you still have that water bug chart?” one asked me. We veered from the day’s alpine plant plan and made friends with what the kids decided, using a macroinvertebrate key, were black fly larvae. They noted the mouth brush filters and abdominal features allowing these critters to anchor to the stones. I would have led them right by, never noticing the rich possibilities of exploring the natural world through a child’s eyes. I am sometimes guilty of tunnel vision without a young companion, only noticing what I know or am expecting to find.

Nathan's Mac & Cheese Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Nathan’s Mac & Cheese
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
That same June I was hiking in the Manti-LaSals with my nephew when he reminded me of the message in another of Muir’s statements, “One day’s exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books.” We sat down when he heard the sounds of a woodpecker busy in the treetops, making wisecracks about how it can peck like that and not get a headache. Our sit spot observation led me later to find answers: did you know that woodpeckers have special muscles and extra inner eyelids? I admit that it was Nathan, the hiker without the Utah Master Naturalist certifications, who spotted what looked like macaroni and cheese on the branch as we moved on and proceeded to tell me that he thought it was a fungus, much like a young Darwin who said, “I am a complete millionaire in odd and curious facts.” Next time you go out, take along a child. You’ll be a millionaire, too.

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I am wild about Utah.

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:


Lasky, Kathryn. One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. Candlewick Press, 2009.

Mertins, Brian. How to increase curiosity with nature.

Natural History Museum of Utah.

O’Connor, Mike. Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches? And other bird questions you know you want to ask. Beacon Press, 2007.

Stokes Nature Center.

Utah State University Extension. Key to Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Life in Utah Ponds and Streams.

Wolfe, Linnie Marsh. John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1938.

The Glacier Lily

The Glacier Lily: Glacier Lilies, Courtesy Andrea Liberatore, Photographer
Glacier Lilies,
Courtesy Andrea Liberatore, Photographer
I find it difficult to leave my canyon home in N. Utah especially during April and May. Every day brings new bloom and bird song. On April 12th I returned from 9 days in Georgia for a family event. I quickly retreated to the canyon where I found spring in full bloom- spring beauty, balsamroot, Indian potato, locoweed, violet and perhaps my favorite, the glacier lily. It often appears at the edge of receding snow banks.

Mother Grizzly Bear and Cubs in Yellowstone National Park Courtesy USGS Frank T. van Manen, Photographer
Mother Grizzly Bear and Cubs in Yellowstone National Park
Courtesy USGS
Frank T. van Manen, Photographer
Its delicate beauty is a favorite early season food of the grizzly bear. Bears “till” up the land, turning over chunks of soil to access their tasty bulb. Glacier National Park scientists have learned that this “tilling” has some important side effects. Areas with recent bear diggings have less plant diversity and higher nitrogen levels than undisturbed parts of the landscape. Without much competition from other plants, glacier lily bulbs can quickly regenerate, and these new lilies produce twice the usual number of seeds, thanks to the nitrogen rich soil!

After digging up glacier lilies, bears often leave the bulbs for a few days to wilt in the sun. This “cooks” them a bit making them sweeter and easier to digest. First Nations lore shows that early peoples learned to dry and cook glacier lily bulbs by copying the grizzly. Black bears relish the bulbs as well while Elk and deer munch the foliage.

The Shoshone ate the corms fresh or with soup, and the dried bulbs were a popular trade item between tribes. The leaves are edible as well and the green seedpods taste like green beans when cooked. Medical applications include reducing fever, swelling, infection, and they were used as a contraceptive. The glacier lily was collected during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis mentioned this species numerous times in his journal. This may be because he thought it could be used as a “botanical calendar” to help track the onset of spring.

Glacier lilies are very sensitive to disturbance and harvesting the corm will effectively kill the plant. Though native tribes practiced active management of them, their populations have been greatly reduced. It is better to leave collection to wildlife.

“The snow is melting. The grizzly bears that have been sleeping beneath the snow, suspended like seeds, will prowl the warm fields just beneath the snow, grazing on the delicious emerging lilies. Sometimes the yellow pollen gets caught on the fur and snouts of the great golden bears as they grub and push through the lily fields, pollinating other lilies in this manner. In this crude fashion, they are famers of a kind, nurturing and expanding one of the crops that first meets them each year. The lilies follow the snow, and the snow pulls back to reveal the bears, and the bears follow the Lilies. The script of life begins moving with enthusiasm once again.” Rick Bass, author, naturalist, activist.

Jack Greene for BAS and you guessed it- I’m wild about Utah, and its long lost grizzlies


Images: Courtesy & © Andrea Liberatore
Bear image: Courtesy USGS, Frank T van Manen, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text:     Jack Greene,

Additional Reading:

Glacier Lily — Erythronium grandiflorum. Montana Field Guide. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Retrieved on April 18, 2021, from

Alberty, Erin, Wasatch wildflower update: Early blooms emerging in low places, The Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 2017,

Rey-Vizgirdas, Edna, Forest Botanist, Boise National Forest, Yellow Avalanche-lily (Erythronium grandiflorum), Forest Management, Rangelands Management, & Vegetation Ecology Programs, USDA Forest Service,

McConnell, Tatum, Vital Ground Communications Intern, How Grizzly Bear Digging Shapes Mountain Meadows, The Vital Ground Foundation,