Reinhard Jockel, Naturalist

Reinhard Jockel at the Wellsville HawkWatch Site Overlooking Box Elder County Sept 25, 1999. Image from Reinhard Jockel
Reinhard Jockel at the Wellsville HawkWatch Site Overlooking Box Elder County Sept 25, 1999.
Image from Reinhard Jockel
Naturalists are fading. They have been replaced by specialists-botanists, ornithologists, entomologists, geologists, or one of many other natural resource specialists. I consider myself a naturalist, or generalist. I have high interest in all of these disciplines, but do not consider myself an expert on any of them.

I’ve met a handful of other naturalists in Utah, but they are an endangered species. A few weeks ago we lost one here in Cache Valley. Reinhard Jockel was our version of John Muir. He came from Germany in the 1950s as a teenager for better educational opportunities.

I first met Reinhard in the late 1980s. Living in a tiny second story apartment, he chose a bike and boots as his only mode of transportation. With a long beard, thick German accent, and antiquated outdoor equipment including a wooden hiking staff, Reinhard became a local legend. Many birders and botanists befriended him for his local knowledge, which he was very willing to share and was awarded the Bridgerland Audubon educator award in 2012. Another contribution came from the detailed, meticulous records he kept on blooming dates for many wildflowers and migratory birds, a treasure trove of data on life’s response to our a changing climate.

Reinhard’s passion for nature’s offerings knew no boundaries. Although he only lacked a few credits to attain a PhD in botany, Reinhard abandoned his studies at UC Berkley and headed back to Cache Valley Utah to resume his independent field studies in our valley and mountains. I was one of the benefactors.

As a backcountry Ranger in the Naomi and Wellsville Wilderness, Reinhard often joined me for a free ride to his beloved mountains. I welcomed him knowing he would add to my knowledge base on all wildlife and plants we encountered- birds, butterflies, wildflowers, tiger salamanders, leopard frogs- whatever might cross our paths. In our years together, we kept track of the dwindling populations of pica and amphibians, goshawks, and a few other species of special concern.

Occasionally we would happen onto a rarity that made Reinhard dance with delight. Following a long, rigorous hike into the high country of Naomi wilderness, we found ourselves at the base of Mt. Elmer cliffs. “An Alp lily”! His excitement couldn’t be contained. This beauty is circumpolar found in high latitudes and altitudes around the globe. It reminded him of his homeland alpine heights.

Another discovery came on our hike into Whitepine Lake above Tony Grove. Reinhard was ecstatic to discovered a Whipple’s penstemon growing along the trail, a delicious surprise! Others came- orchids, gentians, new butterfly and bird species expanded my list.

Two weeks ago, Reinhard became part of his beloved earth in the Logan cemetery. He has good company with 58 species of birds recorded within its confines. The Bridgerland Audubon has planned a Reinhard memorial bird outing 9 am on February 5th beginning at his grave. See more detail on our website.

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am totally Wild about Utah!

Pictures: From Reinhard Jockel
Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Reihard Jockel was the recipient of the 2014 Carl Johnson Education Award from Bridgerland Audubon Society,

Reihard Jockel was a member of the 200 club maintained by the Bridgerland Audubon Society, The 200 club recognizes those who have recorded seeing 200 bird species in one calendar year within the county borders.

Click to view pdf of Reinhard’s Obituary as found on

McCollum, Charles, Legendary local naturalist Reinhard Jockel dies at 80, HJNews, December 22, 2021,

Reinhard Memorial Birding Field Trip, Feb 5, 2022, Meet Saturday, Feb 5, 9 am at the “Weeping Woman” statue near the center of the Logan Cemetery,


Fireweed: Gambel Oak Quercus gambelii Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Gambel Oak
Quercus gambelii
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Fireweed
Epilobium angustifolium
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Today snow blankets Utah’s forest floors, yet just a few months ago wildfire management teams were battling blazes across the state. With over 1,000 wildfires burning an estimated 63,000 acres in Utah in 2021, it was not difficult to find one. As I observed plumes of the Bennion Creek fire from a safe, comfortably cool spot atop Manti-LaSal’s Skyline Drive last June, Disney’s Bambi wildfire came to mind. Wildlife no doubt scurried while humans raced against windy conditions, hoping to contain as others evacuated, all bracing for inevitable short-term as well as long-term impacts. Smokey the Bear campaigns have called for prevention and suppression since the 1940s, and reports showed that human-caused wildfires were fewer in 2021 than previous years, yet nature itself is still sometimes to blame.

Yesterday as I visited with a close friend grieving her daughter’s recent and abrupt passing, we reflected on a summertime adventure we shared through an alpine burn scar, blackened, silent, and desolate. We wandered again through our memory of acres and acres of torched forest. Regally standing amid the charred stumps and nothing else, though, were thousands of beautifully bright pink-purple flower colonies. William Shakespeare’s poetic
“Here enclos’d, in cinders lie.
Death is now the Phoenix’ nest,”
describes this hardy plant named fireweed, not for any fiery red-orange blossoms but for being a colonizer of recently-scorched landscapes. Long before grasses, Gambel oak, and Lodgepole cone sprouts start to emerge out of the ashes, flashy fireweed will grow to sometimes nine feet tall. The flowers bloom from bottom up, and when the top flower bud blooms, winter might be just six weeks away. Also called willowherb, fireweed seed heads are long pods filled with silky feather tufts that unfold to carry tens of thousands of seeds on the wind, signaling the end of the season. As time passes, other plants will take over as successive vegetation cycles do, but once you’ve seen majestic fireweed thrive in an annihilated forest, you never forget it. Wildlife loves fireweed just as much as I do. Deer, elk, moose, and even grizzly bear along with all sorts of pollinators are attracted to her deliciously vibrant color.

January is a quiet reprieve from summer blazes, a time when renewal and rebirth is our focus. Right now forest phoenix fireweed seeds are just awaiting the thaw, eager to bring solitary but stately vitality to otherwise dismal gloom. Out of something devastating comes a little bit of lovely. After World War II bombings, fireweed bloomed in the heart of London for the first time in decades. I imagine my friend’s Crystal and fireweed would agree: Why be a princess among others when you can be the queen?

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I am Wild About Utah.


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

Additional Reading:

Ballard, Heidi L., Emily Evans, Victoria E. Sturtevant, and Pamela Jakes (2012). The Evolution of Smokey Bear: Environmental Education About Wildfire for Youth, The Journal of Environmental Education, 43:4, 227-240, DOI: 10.1080/00958964.2011.644352,

Boling, Josh. Fire. Wild About Utah, August 13, 2018,

Capdeville, Sarah. Fireweed: A Colorful Reminder of Change. (2015).

Collard, Sneed B. Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests. (2015). Bucking Horse Books.

Green, Jack. Holy Smokes! (2021).

Mullen, Luba. How Trees Survive and Thrive After a Fire. (2017).

Olsen, Shawn and Debbie Amundsen. Gambel Oak in the Landscape. (2021). USU Extension.

Peery, Lexi. Utah Saw a Decrease in Human-caused Wildfires. November 2, 2021.

Shakespeare, William. The Phoenix and the Turtle. (1601).

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fireweed. (2016).

Vizgirdas, Edna. U.S. Forest Service Plant of the Week: Fireweed.

Wells, Kathryn and Timothy J. Haney. D is for Disaster. (2017). Volume: 16 issue: 2, page(s): 62-64. (2017).

Wild About Utah Posts by Shannon Rhodes

Vinegar Honeydew

Vinegar Honeydew: Cucumber Pickles Courtesy Pixabay, CongerDesign, Photographer
Cucumber Pickles
Courtesy Pixabay, CongerDesign, Photographer
Winter is the season of withholdings come free and taboos undone. Those things we tell ourselves which are not for the warm months come to roost, and our allowances to ourselves grow as the season’s light shrinks.

Winter is when we get to have a sit by the fire and exhale from our work like young exhausted parents, listening to the world’s sleep because of our good labor done. It’s when we can crack open our stores and taste the results of our year on this earth from the gardens and fields; the flavors of hope without fear of waste. Vinegar truly is the honeydew of the long nights.

It’s also when we can have freedom in the snow. The snow is that sweeping medium which allows us to climb mountains and then descend at speeds which in any other season would be a cause for concern, even if moderate.

Each mode of winter travel has its partakers and dissuaders, though none is surely the best for all. Cross country, sitski, telemark, downhill, snowbike, snowskate, snowboard, sled, tube, and contractor bag all each have their place for us to slide at speeds too great to pass up. Some have edges for control, some have fewer for fun, yet all allow for wind to blow through your hair and to dance with gravity, more apparent than ever in the cold.

Winter also gives us stories not available elsewhen. Many skilled naturalists have given many good lessons to me on how to read the snows over the years, yet not one lecture can compare to what happens when you go out by yourself and see what the world itself has to say. I’ve spent good hours finding a good track and following it, whether it’s a hare to its burrow, deer to the nearest alfalfa field, or my eyes wandering skywards to see whose wings caught the vole which once did scurry all a tither. The words though melt in the sun, and so the snow is the rarest of books. Perhaps it is also the most precious. Stories carved in stone seem mortibund to those on paper, and so those tattooed upon tree pulp seem to the cuneiform in the nivian ether.

So this winter, do not forget to enjoy the allowances you’ve worked all year: warming your bones by the fire; reading the precious snows; sliding down hills; and vinegar honeydew from your stores.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy Pixabay, CongerDesign, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
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,

Strand, Holly, Snowshoe Hare, Wild About Utah, February 18, 2010,

Larese-Casanova, Mark, The Shape of Wildlife in Winter Wild About Utah, January 26, 2012,

Larese-Casanova, Mark, Utah’s Rich Skiing History Wild About Utah, January 23, 2014,

Strand, Holly, A Utah Skier’s Snow Lexicon Wild About Utah, January 29, 2009,

Nummer, Brian, Getting Crisp Home Pickled Vegetables, Extension, Utah State University,

Food Safety & Preservation, Extension, Utah State University,

Beaver Tail Strike

Beaver Tail Strike: Beaver swimming Courtesy NPS,  J Schmidt, Photographer
Beaver swimming
Courtesy NPS,
J Schmidt, Photographer
When I first saw a beaver in Cache Valley I thought I’d seen an alligator. I was sitting in the front of a canoe when a large head shot past the bow followed by a black tail that flew into the air and came down on the water with a resounding slap

“What was that?” I asked
“I don’t know,” my friend answered
“I think it was an alligator,” I said
By then then creature had disappeared and we paddled on.

I found out later that tail slapping is a common beaver behavior. Its a warning shot before the beaver dives for cover.

Intrigued, I set out to learn more. It came as a surprise to me to find out that when a beaver builds a dam, it is actually building a home. Inside a sturdy wall of sticks, rocks and mud, the beavers build a living space above the water line. It’s dry – and its safe because it can only be entered by swimming through underwater tunnels. Not a problem for a beaver who can swim underwater for as long as 15 minutes.

When the surface of the pond freezes over, the females will give birth. Its an extended family life – an adult pair, the yearlings, and the new kits. When winter is long, and with so many mouths to feed, the beavers have perfected their food storage. Hauling their favorite food, aspen , back to the lodge, they jam it into the muddy bottom of the pond. There is stays, fresh and crisp like any refrigerated food, until its needed.

When fur trappers arrived in Northern Utah in the 1800’s, European hat makers had discovered that felted beaver wool made the very best hats. Bear Lake became a hot spot. The historical marker just north of Garden City tells us,

“Donald MacKenzie, Jim Bridger, and a host of famous beaver hunters operated here. Two major summer frolics and trade fairs brought plenty of excitement to Bear Lake in 1827 and 1828.”

Trappers were harvesting up to 500 lbs a year. But by 1840, the beavers had become almost extinct. European fashion in hats moved on to silk – a good thing for the hat makers as well because the mercury used in the felting of beaver wool caused all kinds of neurological disorders. Its no joke the Hatter in Alice in Wonderland is mad.

Back in northern Utah, the beaver population slowly rebuilt, but the human population also grew and conflicts arose. Recently a farmer in Benson became irate when beavers began to redirect the flow of water through his irrigation canals

Beaver Health Exam Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Becky Yeager, Photographer
Beaver Health Exam
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Becky Yeager, Photographer
It’s the job of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to live trap and relocate these beavers. I was lucky to be allowed into the loop at this point.

When I picked up one of the smaller beavers, I could feel its heart going a mile a minute under my fingers. But it settled down as I sat in a chair holding it against my chest while it got a quick physical checkup.

Holding the beaver close, I had a good look at the nibble fingers on its front feet, the webbing on its back feet that can paddle along at 6mph, and the marvelous flat tail, a good rudder for swimming, a prop for standing on land, and perfect for slapping the water’s surface.

Take my word for it, once you’ve seen this slap up close, you won’t forget it.

I’m Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah.

Photos: Courtesy US NPS, Yellowstone Collection, J. Schmidt, Photographer
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Featured Audio: Courtesy Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text & Voice: Mary Heers
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster

Additional Reading

Leavitt, Shauna, Beaver in Utah’s Desert Rivers, Wild About Utah, July 6, 2020,

Leavitt, Shauna, Proposed Beaver Holding Facility in Millville, Utah, Wild About Utah, September 3, 2018,

Goodwin, Jim, Riparian Zones and a Critter Quiz, Wild About Utah, January 22, 2015, June 15, 2015,

Strand, Holly, Beavers: The Original Army Corps of Engineers, Wild About Utah, April 29, 20-10, August 16, 2012,

Kervin, Linda, Huddling for Warmth, Wild About Utah, February 3, 2011,

Beaver Monitoring App, Utah Water Watch, Extension, Utah State University,

Pollock, M.M., G.M. Lewallen, K. Woodruff, C.E. Jordan and J.M. Castro (Editors) 2018. The Beaver Restoration Guidebook: Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and Floodplains. Version 2.01. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. 189 pp. Online at:

Macfarlane W.W., Wheaton J.M., and M.L. Jensen. 2014. The Utah Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool: A Decision Support and Planning Tool. Ecogeomorphology and Topographic Analysis Lab, Utah State University, Prepared for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Logan, Utah, 135 pp. Available at:

Wheaton JM. 2013. Scoping Study and Recommendations for an Adaptive Beaver Management Plan. Prepared for Park City
Municipal Corporation. Logan, Utah, 30 pp.

Beaver Reintroduction Looks Positive for Stream Restoration
in Northern Utah, Utah Forest News, USU Forestry Extension, Utah State University, Volume 18, Number 3, 2014,

Muffoletto, Mary-Ann, Dam Good! Beavers May Restore Imperiled Streams, Fish Populations, Today, Utah State University, July 07, 2016,

Restoring Degraded Waters, One Pest at a Time, Utah State Magazine, Utah State University, December 7, 2021,