Christmas Reindeer

Reindeer: Yuki the Reindeer from the Mountain West Animal Hospital. Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Yuki the Reindeer from the Mountain West Animal Hospital
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer

Mary with Bluebell the Reindeer from the Rockin Reindeer Ranch at the Ogden City Christmas Square. Copyright Mary Heers Mary with Bluebell the Reindeer
from the
Rockin Reindeer Ranch
Ogden City Christmas Square
Copyright Mary Heers

I first time I came face to face with a living, breathing reindeer was a few weeks ago at the Reindeer Express hosted by Utah State University vet students. Two vets from the Mt. West Animal Hospital near Provo had brought two of their reindeer with them to Cache Valley and were standing by to answer our questions.

The first thing I learned was that both male and female reindeer grow a new set of antlers every year. The antlers are solid bone and can weigh up to 15 pounds. The males usually drop their antlers in Nov after the mating season, while the females keep theirs a few months longer – until after they drop their calves in the Spring. A vet student chimed in. He said reindeer losing their antlers looks a lot like us losing a baby tooth. The antlers get a little wobbly and simply fall off. The reindeer just keeps grazing.

Now I was hot on the trail of reindeer in Utah. I went to the Ogden City Christmas Square to meet Bluebell from the Rockin Reindeer farm near Ogden. As admirers were taking pictures, Bluebell’s owner told me that watching the antlers regrow could be pretty exciting. Every morning you could get up and easily see how the antlers had grown another inch overnight.

I also learned if you listened closely, you could hear a clicking when the reindeer walked. The first time they heard it, they thought something was terribly wrong. But all reindeer click when the tendon in their leg slides over a bone. Clicking seems to be a way for the herd to find each other in white-out winter weather.

Another adaptation to intense cold is the hair that covers every reindeer’s nose This helps keep it warm in the reindeers natural habitat in the far north.

I can trace my own fascination with reindeer to my childhood days when my father arranged for a friend of his to dress up as Santa and personally deliver a big white sack full of presents to our house. The fact that Santa rang our doorbell didn’t strike me as odd since we didn’t have a chimney. One Christmas Eve I was talking all day about how I would soon get to meet Santa’s reindeer. When the doorbell rang, I rushed to open the door. There was Santa with his big white sack. No reindeer.

“Where are the reindeer?” I asked.

“I left them down the street,” Santa said. “Let’s go see them after we open the presents. “

That did the trick. I forgot all about the reindeer.

But now that I’m older and wiser, I know that most male reindeer drop their antlers in Nov, while the females keep theirs a few more months. So the odds are very, very good that the Santa that rang my doorbell was driving an all-female dream team.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah

Photos: Courtesy Mary Heers,
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text: Mary Heers,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

Heaps, Spenser, (The Daily Herald), Springville veterinarian and his reindeer find success, Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 2015

Bott, Isaac, DocBott – Musings of a mixed animal veterinarian,

Rockin Reindeer Ranch,

Mundane to Magical

Mundane to Magical: Whole Class at First Dam, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer
Whole Class at First Dam
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Using Binoculars to Look for Ducks, Courtesy & Copyright  Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Using Binoculars to Look for Ducks
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Spotting Scope with Image Transmitter, Courtesy & Copyright  Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Spotting Scope with Image Transmitter
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

One aspect of experiential learning I love most is how it turns mundane encounters into magical experiences. How many times have your children walked by a pond full of ducks and geese without batting an eye, or shuffled their feet through fallen, Autumn leaves on their way to this or to that? I continue to be astonished by how much there is to appreciate and to learn from our surroundings, but we lend it a bit of our attention and wonder. It’s amazing to see how just a little preparatory investigation can turn fleeting everyday moments into lifelong learning memories.

My 2nd-grade class focuses on learning about birds. I don’t just mean we read a few books and discuss the basics of birds. I mean my students can replicate the sounds of at least 15 local birds, provide detailed descriptions of their body characteristics, and even provide information about their diet, habits, and behaviors. We’ve studied birds all year long, partnered with local bird organizations – Bridgerland Audubon Society, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge –, been on numerous birding outings, and let’s just say are ALL IN on birding.

With the recent weather systems and cold fronts in Northern Utah, we’ve seen waterfowl migrations come alive; a perfect time to study that classification of birds with my students! Little did I, or my students, realize there was so much to learn about common waterfowl! Did you know some waterfowl dive for food and others dabble? Did you know about preening to keep waterproof, or special down feathers to keep warm? How about your knowledge on a Redhead Duck’s nest parasitism techniques? Well, my students learned about these things, and many more over the span of a few weeks. As a culminating event, we planned a field experience to Logan’s 1st Dam, a local and vibrantly busy park, which surrounds a small reservoir, and is about a 45-minute walk from our school’s front door. Many of my students have been to this park numerous times throughout their lives with their families. Needless to say, there is nothing novel about this location.

Armed with binoculars leant by the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and a spotting scope with an image transmitter granted us by Bridgerland Audubon Society, students began to observe, count, and be astonished by what they saw. It was as if the students had never seen a Canada Goose or Mallard duck in their lives. Their background knowledge on these birds brought to life the mundane place they were experiencing, as kids shouted “Look, it’s dabbling!” or “I saw 15 drakes and 19 hens, that’s 34 total!” or “I bet that Redhead is trying to find someone else’s nest to lay her eggs!” The point here is that, with proper prior investigation and attention to details of place, a mundane park can become a treasured location for observing, questioning, and astonishment. What are some mundane experiences around you that could become inspiring and magical learning opportunities?

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am Wild about Outdoor Education in Utah!

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski & Lyle Bingham

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah:

Rosenberg, Ken, Choosing a Spotting Scope, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2008,

How To Choose Binoculars: Our Testing Tips, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Updated December 4, 2022,

Free K-12 Lessons Open Doors for Kids to Explore Nature and Science, Cornell Lab Annual Report 2023, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Updated December 4, 2022,

When Farm Meets Forest

When Farm Meets Forest: A Herd of Sheep Near Hardware Ranch Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
A Herd of Sheep Near Hardware Ranch
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer

Pyrenean Mountain Sheep Dog Near Mendon Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer Pyrenean Mountain Sheep Dog
Near Mendon
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer

Last week, while driving along the western edge of Cache Valley just north of Mendon, I saw a huge herd of sheep complete with a sheepherder’s hut. I slammed on the breaks and jumped out with my camera to catch a few pictures of this rippling river of white. As I approached, a big beautiful white stepped out of the flock. This sheepdog was on the job, protecting the flock from any intruders. As we took a long look at each other, I remembered the story of a similar dog who made quite a splash in the local news 20 years ago.

In this story, a Bear Lake resident, Jimmy Stone, spotted a white Pyrenean in Logan Canyon, and got to worrying if it was lost. He started taking daily trips up the canyon to fill a bowl with dog food and tasty treats. The dog came down to eat the food, but would not leave the area. Jimmy hiked up a nearby ridge, and with the help of his binoculars, discovered the dog’s secret: This loyal guardian dog was sticking with 3 lost sheep. Hoping to lure all 4 off the mountain, Jimmy dropped off a bale of hay. The sheep did not come own, so the dog carried the hay up the hillside – bit by bit. Jimmy dropped off branches of crispy apples. The dog carried them up. The sheep were not coming down, and the dog was not leaving without them. Winter snow arrived. Jimmy bought out all the corn dogs at a local convenience store and threw them like tiny footballs up to the dog. More snowstorms arrived. It was time to ask for help. Search and Rescue showed up immediately with snowmobiles and sleds. This story has a happy ending as the search and rescue team managed to get the dog and the sheep safely off the mountain.

Meanwhile, back on the side of the road north of Mendon, I found out this huge herd of sheep had spent the summer in the mountains above Hardware Ranch. They had been brought here by trucks and were now gleaning a local farmer’s alfalfa fields. Soon the trucks would return to take them to Nevada to spend the winter.

How different this huge herd was from the early pioneer days in Mendon when most people only owned a family milk cow and a few smaller animals. It was the job of the local “herd boy” to gather the milk cows and take them up the mountain to graze during the day. Apparently taking the cows home was the easy part of this job. Each cow knew exactly where she lived and would peel off the group at their own garden gate.

Unfortunately, over time, as the livestock populations increased, the Mendon mountain got severely overgrazed. Each rainstorm would send rocks and mud crashing down the steep slopes. Trying to persuade the town council to get the livestock off the mountain and let the vegetation recover, John O Hughes made a bold move. During a council meeting, he took his glass of water and dumped half of it over the head of a bald man. Everyone watched in stunned silence as the water rolled right off the bald head and soaked the man’s shirt. Hughes then dumped the rest of the water onto a man with a bushy head of hair. This man’s shirt stayed dry. That settled the debate.

To this day, the Mendon mountain is green and wooded. It’s nothing short of a hiker’s paradise.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah


Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers.
Featured Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver,, Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio and Courtesy & Copyright © Anderson, Howe, Wakeman
Text: Mary Heers,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Great Pyrenees, Dog Breed Profile, Hill’s Pet Nutrition,

Stone, Jim, Stone, Karen, The Legend of BIG BOY Safe or Stranded: An Account of a Real Life Living Legend, Balboa Press, January 7, 2021,

Kent, Steve, Dog who refused to abandon sheep in Logan remembered in book, The Associated Press, January 23, 2021,

“Six hikes are detailed in the Wellsville Mountains above and west of Mendon”
Wallace, David, Cache Hikers 2023, Bridgerland Audubon Society, 2023,

Wuda Ogwa

Wuda Ogwa: A Labor of Love and Healing at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Mehmet Soyer, Photographer
A Labor of Love and Healing at
Wuda Ogwa
Courtesy & Copyright © Mehmet Soyer, Photographer

A moment of reflection, Shoshone tribal leader Darren Parry at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Melanie Parry, Photographer A moment of reflection
Shoshone tribal leader Darren Parry at Wuda Ogwa
Courtesy & Copyright © Melanie Parry, Photographer

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Bear River Massacre where on a frigid winter morning in January, 1863, over 400 native lives were lost, mostly women, children, and elderly, slaughtered by the U.S. government. I’ve become well acquainted with the site where this horrible tragedy occurred, a beautiful reach of the Bear River a few miles northwest of Preston Idaho. I’ve volunteered to record birds on their near 600 acres of land, which the Northwest band of Shoshone’s had purchased several years ago. Diversity of bird species is an excellent indictor of the habitat health they rely on.

Tribal elder Darren Parry is hoping to acquire funds for a cultural interpretive center which would tell the story of this sacred land and its people, along with an amphitheater for powwows and other educational and traditional activities. Wuda Ogwa, Shoshone words for Bear River, will become an outstanding education center woven into it’s cultural and spiritual significance.

Darren has gathered many nontribal interests as well, to bring the land back to what it may have been before various agricultural practices caused radical changes from what it once was. Exotic Russian olive trees have invaded many acres of the flood plain. The Utah Conservation Corps has removed substantial amounts, some burnt down and pyrolyzed to form charcoal to be used as a soil amendment. Cattle grazing will be phased out to allow better control of exotic species.

As I approached an open field cleared of Russian olive, hundreds of seedling native plants had been strewn over the open ground awaiting for shovels and spades. Cottonwood, willow, dogwood, golden current, choke cherry, service berry, wild rose. It was overwhelming. How could such an immense quantity of plants ever find a hole? And we were only a small part of the land to be treated.

As I scanned the fields, it became apparent this might just be possible. Hundreds had come- Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo, and our own valley, an army of very different colors from that of 163 years ago. We had come to heal the land, to offer some retribution for those whose bones had once littered some of these same grounds.

“Yesterday, we met as a group of 400 people who took part in another step of the process. We planted thousands of trees and plants that were once sacred to the area. We took a giant step towards healing as a People, as a community, and as a nation. We could not have done this alone. We will continue to hold these events for the next few years to come.” Darren Parry
I look forward to seeing the fruits of our labor, to see a flourishing forest and meadows of native plants, and a flourishing community of Native people to celebrate the rebirth of their ancestors in the living tissue of these new arrivals, which in turn will provide a rich habitat for birds and a plethora of additional life forms.

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about healing wild spaces and the souls they nurture.

Images: A moment of reflection, Shoshone tribal leader Darren Parry at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Melanie Parry, Photographer and
A Labor of Love and Healing at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Mehmet Soyer, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin, and Kevin Colver,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Other Wild About Utah Pieces by Jack Greene

Marchant, Brock, ‘Knowledge keeper and storyteller’: Darren Parry selected as The Herald Journal’s 2022 Resident of the year, The Herald Journal, January 27, 2023,

Parry, Darren, The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History, Common Consent Press, November 29, 2019,

Wuda Ogwa, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation,
Boa Ogoi (Wuda Ogwa) Cultural Interpretive Center, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation,
Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation,

“This site has also been known as the Bear River Massacre, and as Boa Ogoi. The tribe officially uses the term Wuda Ogwa, a direct translation of Bear River.”

[Last Paragraph: Gilbert, Lael, Reclaiming Sacred Space: QCNR Students Assist in Restoration at Wuda Ogwa Site, Today, Utah State University, November 09, 2023

Utah Insight: Water Restoration Project, PBS Utah