Make a Marvelous Thanksgiving Meal – with or without the Turkey

Turkeysmay not be as easy to purchase this year as they have been in previous years. According to the USDA, frozen turkey inventories are 24 percent below their three-year average volumes, and production of turkeys is down compared to the average year.

The problem is not only the availability of turkeys, but also supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and the increased costs of feeding and moving turkeys, among other concerns. According to, Jennifer Blackhurst, University of Iowa professor of business analytics, prices will be 3.5-4.5% higher this year.

With that said, these challenges don’t mean you have to miss out on a great Thanksgiving meal. Even if you don’t end up purchasing a turkey this year, you can still keep many traditions or start new ones. Alternatives to turkey include pork chops, roast beef, ham, steak, chicken, pot roast, meatloaf, ribs, seafood (tuna, cod, salmon), and shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, clams), among others. Just because it’s a tradition to eat turkey doesn’t mean you have to – whatever your family enjoys most can be your main course.

As you shop for and prepare your Thanksgiving feast, Utah State University Extension’s Create Better Health (SNAP-Ed) program offers tips to help.

  • Plan recipes and make ingredient lists now. Check supermarket flyers before you shop.
  • Use mobile coupon apps to help you find the best prices. Apps and cash-back programs are available at your fingertips. Try combining deals to maximize every dollar.
  • Dial it back and keep it simple. If ingredients are expensive or your time is limited, reduce the number of items on the menu. Pick your favorites, and forget the rest. Also, don’t be afraid to make food assignments to others attending your gathering. This helps to share traditions as well as the workload, and reduces the cost to the host.
  • Substitute canned or frozen vegetables to cut costs and save time. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh.
  • Put leftovers to good use. To ensure leftovers won’t be forgotten or tossed, have a plan for their use in advance. For recipes and inspiration, check out these Thanksgiving leftover ideas. Included are recipes for turkey, pumpkin, sweet potatoes/yams, cranberries, and mashed potatoes.
  • Enjoy more time with your love ones by simplifying your prep time using alternative recipes or cooking methods. Also involve your loved ones in the preparation. Time spent together in the kitchen can provide an opportunity for bonding and making happy memories.

By: Heidi LeBlanc, director, Utah State University Extension Create Better Health program, Heidi.leblanc@usu.edu and Hannah Hall, student intern

Show Gratitude for Your Partner This Season (and Always!)

This month, we celebrate the joy that comes from sharing gratitude. According to research from Harvard Health, gratitude can truly make a person happier. In recent years, psychologists have focused on the benefits that come to individuals when they create a habit of being thankful and showing gratitude. These benefits, however, are not just for the individual. This research shows that couples who show gratitude for their partner, and who express it regularly, feel more positive toward the partner. Research also shows that expressing gratitude releases oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” which builds a greater connection and bond between two people.

Although showing gratitude to your partner has many benefits, it can be difficult to find a way to do it regularly and in a meaningful way. Consider these tips to help you cultivate gratitude in your relationship. 

  1. Share compliments out loud. Have you ever caught yourself thinking something nice about your partner? Instead of keeping the thought to yourself, say it out loud. Tell your partner what you appreciate about what he or she did, right in the moment. 
  2. Pitch in and give your partner a break. It can be easy to forget or not notice how much effort your partner is putting into his or her job or at home. Show your gratitude and appreciation for those contributions by giving your partner a break and helping where you can to lessen the load. 
  3. Involve your children in thanking and letting your partner know of your appreciation. Getting children in on the joy of practicing gratitude can be fun and worthwhile. Help your children recognize how much work your partner puts in by encouraging them to show thanks through notes, words, or chores.
  4. Write a note, text, or letter expressing appreciation and gratitude. Can you remember the last time you wrote a love message to your partner? Go deeper than merely expressing your love; explain the reasons for your love and share the small things that he or she does to make your life better. 
  5. Express gratitude for your partner, especially when he or she isn’t there. It can be easy to get into a routine of complaining about our significant others when they are not present. For example, if your coworkers are talking about what bothers them about their partners or expressing frustration about a home situation, your instinct may be to join in and share your complaints. Next time this happens, turn the complaining session into a gratitude session. Even though your partner may not be present to hear what you appreciate, you will have an increased level of gratitude and may even be able to influence those around you to have an increased level of gratitude for their partners as well. 

No matter how you choose to show gratitude and cultivate a greater sense of appreciation in your relationship, remember that it is a simple way to build and strengthen your bond. In this month of November, when we focus on gratitude and giving thanks, remember that you can strengthen your relationship by sharing your appreciation for your partner, with your partner. For references and citation links, visit https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/faq/index.

By: Tasha Howard, Utah State University Extension assistant professor

The House Mouse – Not Your Storybook Christmas Mouse

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” The opening line of Charles Moore’s poem creates the impression of slumbering mice awaiting the arrival of Santa. In Anne Mortimer’s book, “The Christmas Mouse,” she tells of a mouse full of festive energy. This portrayal is likely the most accurate, as mice are most busy and active at night. 

In recent weeks, many homeowners have reported seeing mice droppings in cupboards, basements, food storage areas, bathrooms, bedrooms and garages. Mice can spread diseases through their urine, droppings, saliva and nesting materials. These diseases can be deadly, and if you have a major infestation in your home, the risk factor increases. The mice most frequently encountered in our areas are the house mouse and the deer mouse.

Mice are generally found living far away from humans, but the onset of cold weather encourages them to seek warmth in homes and structures.

Mice are nibblers. They feed on a wide range of food, but prefer foods high in fats and sugars. They get most of the water they need from food. They also eat, urinate and defecate continually and tend to nest near their food.

It might sound a bit dramatic to say that a mouse can burn down your house, but they can, and it’s especially true at Christmas with lights and wires. Mice will nibble on wires when they are in walls and attics or as they try to gain access to places the wires may be blocking. Once a wire becomes bare, the chance of it sparking a fire increases. About 25 percent of all fires attributed to “unknown causes” in the U.S. are started by rodents.

Because they are most active at night, mice often roam undetected throughout a household. If you start seeing them around in the daytime, you likely have a mouse infestation. Droppings and the musky smell of urine coming from cupboards or drawers is also a sign.

Mice have a very high reproductive rate. Within a matter of months, a female can produce several litters. These litters can also start producing mice within 2 months of birth.

The best way to control mice in your house is prevention. Consider these tips.

  • Mice can fit through tiny spaces. Holes and cracks in the foundation and outer walls are entry points, as are doorways and areas around windows, chimneys, roof vents, pipes and wires that enter your home. Seal all holes and openings larger than one-quarter inch. Use heavy materials such as concrete mortar, sheet metal or heavy-gauge hardware cloth. Caulk around doors, windows and places that wires and pipes enter. Check roof and roof vents for damage or holes, and repair as needed. Keep gutters clean. Clear away wood, leaves or other debris near your foundation walls.
  • Inside your home, store dry goods (including cat and dog food) in hard plastic or glass containers with a tightly sealed lid. This will ensure that your food does not get contaminated. Take the garbage out frequently, and don’t leave open foods out.
  • Store bulk foods in rodent-proof containers. Make sure spilled food and crumbs are cleaned up. A Christmas cookie or piece of fruitcake that ended up between the couch cushions can feed a mouse for a week.

If you do have a mouse in the house, consider these tips for catching and removal.

  • Mice can usually be caught using wooden snap traps. Because they have poor eyesight but excellent senses of touch and smell, they tend to travel close to walls and other objects. Plan on setting at least six traps per mouse seen, and place traps close to walls. Use fresh bait, such as peanut butter. You may want to bait the traps without setting them for a day or so. When you notice the bait has been taken, set the trap. Once caught, mice should be bagged and disposed of in an outside garbage container or buried.
  • Do not use rodenticides to control mice in homes. Mice that feed on poison baits may die in the home. As they start to decay, the resulting odor will cause further issues.
  • Due to the risk of disease associated with mice, cleaning up their nests or places where

they have defecated and urinated is a process that should not be taken lightly. Do not vacuum or sweep mouse droppings, as it can release more bacteria into the air, and the dust can make you ill. Always wear a mask and latex or vinyl gloves while cleaning mouse-infected areas.

  • Spray the area with a commercial disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water and let it sit for five minutes before using paper towels to wipe the area clean. Once you are done, put the dirty paper towels in a plastic bag in your outside garbage.
  • Food items that have been chewed, like that Christmas cookie or fruitcake, should be immediately discarded.

More information can be found at wildawareutah.org.

By: Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist, terry.messmer@usu.edu, 435-797-3975

Thanksgiving with the Family – Tips for Survival

It’s that time of year when family members travel from far and wide to gather, give thanks and eat a large meal together. Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time filled with traditions, famous family recipes and catching up with each other’s lives. However, some view Thanksgiving with concern about how everyone will get along.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help your family have a better chance for a peaceful, enjoyable Thanksgiving this year.

First, a few “Don’ts”

  • Don’t talk politics or bring up other “hot topics.” Often the urge is to help family members “really understand” your position or understand why their position is irrational and wrong. Too often, this ends with slamming doors and someone crying in the car.
  • Don’t be sarcastic, critical or give subtle jabs. These can cause emotions to escalate quickly, and feelings can get hurt.
  • Don’t try to fix each other’s problems over one meal. Also, don’t discuss the problems of other family members who aren’t there. The Thanksgiving meal is not the time to suggest someone get out of a relationship, sell a house, be a better parent or start exercising.
  • Don’t take things personally. Some family members are more “prickly” than others, but choose not to get defensive. If someone does start fishing for a reaction, don’t take the hook.

Here are some “Do’s”

  • Take charge of seating. Set the table for success by separating conflicting personalities. Set the conspirators near you so you can put out fires and guide the conversation.
  • Remind yourself why you are doing it. You love your family (right?), and ultimately, people are more important than problems.
  • Ask others about their lives. Don’t talk about yourself extensively.
  • Give kids responsibilities, but then turn them loose. Kids simply aren’t going to enjoy being trapped at a table for long periods of time. They often get restless and whiny. It’s okay if they run off after trying most of the foods. Don’t turn it into a battle. Have something for them to do after the meal.

By: David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist,david.schramm@usu.edu

Plant Bulbs Now for Color Explosion this Spring

Spring-blooming bulbs are popular because of the beauty they add to the landscape and their ease of growing. Now is a good time to plant them, and many local retailers offer a wide variety. Consider these popular selections.

* Tulips – Tulips are adapted to Utah soils and are available in many colors and flower classes. Many tulip hybrids only bloom well for three or four seasons, then need to be replaced. However, there are some classes that thrive longer. Darwin hybrid tulips, generally the longest blooming, are valued for their large, brightly colored blossoms in red, pink, orange, yellow and white and grow to 30 inches tall. Fosteriana or Emperor tulips are known for their larger, elongated flowers in early spring. Flowers reach 10 to 20 inches and come in shades of yellow, white and red. Some varieties have variegated foliage. Species tulips are the original wild species and generally are the longest-lived tulips. The flowers are not quite as spectacular and the plants are often smaller, but they are great to use in naturalized areas and rock gardens.

* Daffodils (Narcissus) – Daffodils are an excellent bulb choice because they are deer resistant. They are long lived and should be divided every 3 to 4 years. Yellow is the most common color, but cultivars are available in creamy white and yellow orange, and newer white varieties have pink fringes. Some cultivars grow from 6 to 12 inches.

* Hyacinths – Hyacinths usually grow 6 to 10 inches tall. They are popular for their spring flower spikes with colors ranging from white to pink, red and purple. They work well as a border plant intermixed with other spring flowers. Hyacinths usually start to lose vigor after 3 to 4 years and should be replanted.

* Crocuses – Crocuses offer an early spring surprise because they are among the first flowers to bloom. They often actually push up through the snow. Flowers only reach 3 to 4 inches tall and come in shades of pink, white, yellow and lavender-purple. They are best planted in large groupings instead of individually. They also work well in rock gardens and other naturalized areas.

* Alliums – Alliums are slightly less common than other bulbs but perform well in Northern Utah. They are closely related to edible onions. Blossoms are unique and are sometimes referred to as the spiky ball flower or fireworks flower. Colors include white, red, pink and purple. Flower height ranges from 6 inches to almost 3 feet. The largest cultivars are showy and are often used individually as a springtime flowerbed focal point.

* Irises – Irises are available in some form for most of the growing season. During the spring and summer, they can be purchased as potted plants. However, it is often less expensive to purchase the bulbs in the fall. The common bearded iris is seen in many local yards, but other types are available, including dwarf and variegated forms.

* Fritillaries – Also called checkered lily, they are less common but add beauty to the landscape. Known for having an upside down flower, the color is usually white or light purple. Plant size ranges from 6 to 24 inches. The tallest cultivars are used as focal points just as larger alliums are. Smaller types will naturalize in drier areas.

There are many other spring-blooming bulbs that can be purchased from garden centers, farm stores and box stores. Bulbs are also available through online retailers.

Plant bulbs two to three times as deep as the bulbs are tall. Plant most large bulbs such as tulips or daffodils about 8 inches deep and smaller bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep. Planting depth is measured from the bottom of the bulb. This rule for planting depth does not apply to summer bulbs, which have varied planting requirements, so consult the information supplied with the bulbs.

Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths should be planted with the nose of the bulb upward and the root plate downward. To plant, dig and loosen the entire bed to the proper depth. Press the bulbs into the soil, then cover with soil. Because the soil in a spaded bed is better drained and prepared, the planting will last longer. This method of planting is preferred over planting bulbs one by one with a bulb planter. In many soils, bulb planters do not work well, if at all.

Planting information is from Rob Cornwall, University of Illinois fact sheet, “Bulbs and More.”

Top Three Spooky Spiders in Utah May Not Be So Scary

Spider encounters in Utah increase in the fall as spiders near the end of their lives and search for mates and lay egg sacks. These behaviors often occur indoors, causing more spider encounters and increasing the number of unnecessarily feared or killed spiders. While it’s true that there are spiders of concern in Utah, from an arthropod diagnostician’s viewpoint, people do not need to worry as much as they seem to.

Spiders are highly beneficial to the environment and people. They are predators of insects and are also an excellent food source for those insects and wildlife that we appreciate more readily, such as praying mantises, birds and mammals. The vast majority are also unaggressive and can even be considered docile. They come in a wide array of colors and shapes, and their diversity in ecology and behavior is truly incredible. So perhaps they should be appreciated more than feared.

The three spiders we seem to fear most are hobo, black widow and brown recluse spiders. These are somewhat larger and generally have negative reputations, but it’s important to discuss their status as a health pest and parse out the things that cause fear and concern. 

Hobo Spiders

Hobo spiders are funnel weavers and are abundant outdoors but can also be found in homes in the fall. They have received negative attention over the years because of the documentation of their venom-causing necrotic lesions in humans. But study after study now suggests that their bites do not cause necrotic lesions. Hobo spiders are docile, do not like to bite, and will likely run away when disturbed. Due to emerging evidence, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has removed the hobo spider from the public health pest listing.

black widow spider

Black Widow Spiders

There are more than 30 species of black widows in the world, but only five are found in the United States. It can’t be disputed that their venom can pack a punch. However, it is challenging to label these spiders as “deadly,” and the odds of experiencing severe or life-threatening complications from a bite are small. These spiders are docile and are more likely to run away than bite. You are unlikely to require treatment if you do receive a bite – which is only likely if you disturb it or it is defending an egg sack.

In a review of the National Poison Data System, of 23,000 black widow spider exposures from 2000 to 2008, 65% of patients received minor health effects and required no treatment, 33.5% had a moderate impact that required treatment, and only 1.4% experienced significant effects. No deaths were reported. In addition, the report only generated information from cases where health effects were seen. Likely, countless other black widow spider bites resulted in no health effect at all, or there were cases where the receiver did know they were bitten. Black widow spiders seem to be misunderstood, are docile, and at most, you will have a bad day if you are bitten. But it is still important to use caution. They are listed as a public health consideration by the CDC for a reason. However, that does not mean we need to fear major complications or the spider itself. 

It’s most common to find black widows under woodpiles, in empty flowerpots and other dark, protected structures. Be cautious when putting your hands in these areas, and you can likely avoid them altogether. 

brown recluse spider

Brown recluse spiders

We’ve all heard stories of skin necrosis from brown recluse spider bites. And it’s true – the venom can cause skin lesions that require medical treatment. Otherwise, a bite will likely cause localized pain, swelling or blistering. These spiders only tend to bite if they have no other option. They are fast and timid and will run before deciding to bite. The good news is that brown recluse spiders are not found in Utah. They are considered a “brown spider,” with 11 species found in the United States. Only one species of brown spider has a range that possibly includes the southwestern tip of Utah. Brown recluse spiders can hitchhike in shipped items or vehicles, but the odds of finding one or one of its relatives in Utah are small, and the risk of a bite is also minimal. So, all things considered, brown recluse spiders are hardly a spider of concern in Utah.

Overall, spiders in Utah carry a very low risk when you consider their abundance, presence and behavior. The only way to confirm the identity of a spider if you have been bitten is to collect the spider and have it identified by a professional identifier or entomologist. You can rarely identify spider bites based only on symptoms, especially if the bite marks are no longer visible. If you are experiencing a reaction to a bite or have symptoms that mimic a severe bite, seek medical attention.


Black Widow Spider: Gerald Holmes, Strawberry Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org

Hobo Spider: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Recluse: Sturgis McKeever, Georgia Southern University, Bugwood.org

Prevent Your Carved Creation from Becoming a Fungal Fiasco

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns is an art form that comes in all shapes, sizes and levels of difficulty. The final product (usually) makes the pumpkin carvers proud and anxious to display their work. However, often just a few days later, the pumpkin creation may start to wither and rot, and eventually, mold will take over. Why does this happen?

When you carve a pumpkin, it exposes the insides, making it more susceptible to infection through air flow. The environment (temperature, sunlight, etc.) can also be a factor in the pumpkin’s quality.

Molds are a fungal micro-organism that have the potential to live everywhere. These fungi release tiny, lightweight spores that allow them to travel through the air. They can then infect and cause carved pumpkins to shrivel, soften and start to grow fuzzy, grey mold. Some common interior molds include CladosporiumPenicilliumAspergillus and Alternaria.

Consider these methods to help preserve your carved pumpkin:

  1. Thoroughly wash your pumpkin before cutting into it.
  2. Sterilize spoons, knives or other carving tools before use, especially between pumpkin carving.
  3. Remove all the pumpkin’s insides to reduce the surface area where potential fungi can grow.
  4. Dip, wash or spray your finished carving with a 10 percent bleach solution. This will kill any microorganisms on your pumpkin.
  5. Rub the cut areas with petroleum jelly, which helps lock in the moisture and slow the drying process.
  6. Consider using an electric light or glow stick instead of a candle. This will prevent the gourd from “cooking” and spoiling faster.

Writer: Nick Volesky, Utah State University Extension vegetable integrated pest management associate, Nick.volesky@usu.edu

10 Things You Should Do Before Saying “I Do”

Being in love is exciting and wonderful, and for some people it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of romance. Many people spend more time planning for a wedding than they spend planning for a marriage. Before deciding to tie the knot, consider these tips to help create a more happily ever after.

  1. Ask: Am I ready? The happiest relationships are built on a foundation of two happy and healthy people who are ready to take on the challenges of a new life together. Those who are ready to be in a long-term relationship have dealt with their own personal challenges and issues and are not looking for someone to make them happy or to “fix” them in some way (or vice versa).
  2. Take time. In order to really get to know someone, it takes talking (mutual self-disclosure) + being together (in a variety of situations) + time (at least 90 days) (Van Epp, 2007) or longer. Because we are usually on our best behavior when we first meet and it takes time for patterns of behavior to emerge, this is a process that can’t be rushed, even if you spend a lot of time together.
  3. Be extra cautious in long-distance relationships. While online dating is a common way to meet people, steer clear of commitment without spending a lot of time in person in many different situations. It is easier to show only our best selves in long-distance relationships.
  4. Play detective. Ask deep and meaningful questions that will help you know if you are compatible with the person you are dating. For example, check out these 10 Questions to Ask Before Saying I Do. To make sure we aren’t biased about how we are viewing the person we are dating, it may also be helpful to think about how others might view him or her, or even ask others about their opinions and listen for warning signs you may have missed.
  5. Start to become part of the family. Much of who we are was learned from growing up in our family, so we can learn a lot about what someone will be like as a partner and parent from observing, asking questions and spending time with their family. If there are concerns about a partner’s family or negative traits that a partner has learned from his or her family, you may want to think twice before getting too serious. While change is possible, it takes time and effort, and it is much easier to change before getting into a serious relationship.
  6. Watch for personality compatibility. While we probably won’t have everything in common with our partner, happy relationships often have many of these traits in common: emotional temperament, sense of humor, intelligence, energy levels, similar recreation interests and how affection is expressed.
  7. Be aware of each other’s values. Some of the biggest arguments in relationships relate to those things we value most because we have strong feelings and opinions about them. Having similarities in how religious/spiritual you are, having common financial views and goals and having similar views about family life are all major factors in lasting relationship satisfaction.
  8. Watch for daily life compatibility. While it may not be romantic, the truth is that most of the time we spend with someone in a long-term relationship will be in the everyday routine of life. Consider such things as: Who will earn and manage the money? How will household responsibilities be divided? How will free time be spent? The answers to these questions can be crucial to the happiness of a relationship.
  9. Learn conflict resolution skills. Because we are all different, conflict is inevitable in even the happiest of relationships. When handled in a positive manner, overcoming conflict can strengthen relationships. Having a conflict plan in place can be helpful. Begin by setting the ground rules, such as choosing when and where to deal with conflict and remembering to practice good listening and communication skills.
  10. Plan now to keep your relationship strong. Just like cars, relationships need regular preventative maintenance in order to run smoothly and prevent problems. Research suggests that relationship education (such as attending a class or reading a relationship book together, etc.) can help relationships stay strong. Consider what you will do as a couple to keep your relationship strong.

For more information and class schedules on relationships, visit HealthyRelationshipsUtah.org.

Time for Yard and Garden End-of-Season Tasks

Autumn is officially here, and there is much to look forward to – pumpkins on the porch, apple cider, cooler temperatures and walks through crunchy leaves. But before you get too comfortable, don’t forget the yard and garden end-of-season tasks. Consider these October gardening tips from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac to help. Included are links to fact sheets and videos for further information.

· Consider adding a smaller structure such as a low tunnel or a larger high tunnel to extend your growing season.

· Learn how and when to harvest winter squash. Store winter squash in a cool, 50-55 F, dry location.

· Plant garlic cloves from mid-October through early November.

· Click here for a list of fall cleanup chores and good landscape practices.

· Remove vegetable plants from the garden once the harvest is complete. This will help reduce overwintering sites for insect pests.

· Protect tomatoes from early frost by covering the plants with a blanket or tarp.

· Overwinter carrotsbeets and parsnips in the ground by placing mulch over them. This prevents the ground from freezing.

· Rototill leaves, compost and/or manure into the vegetable garden to enhance the soil microbe activity.

· Limit rose pruning to heading back excessively long canes. This will help prevent damage from heavy snow loads.

· Cut back ornamental grasses in snow-prone areas once the foliage has died down; otherwise, leave them until spring and enjoy the vertical accent during winter.

· Plant spring-blooming bulbs through early November.

· Consider planting trees and shrubs in the fall to enhance root establishment.

· Dig tender perennials such as gladiolas, dahlias, begonias and canna lilies after the foliage has died down and store them in a cool, 45-50 F, dry location.

· Protect trunks of young trees from winter cracking by wrapping them with a white reflective tree wrap.

· Dig and remove annual flowers.

· Plant cold-hardy annuals such as pansies, primrose, kale and ornamental cabbage.

· Prune out (to the ground) raspberry canes that have fruited.

· Fall is the best time to control tough perennial weeds such as field bindweed (morning glory). Click here for a list of weed control options.

· The last lawn mowing of the season should be 1-1 ½ inches high to minimize disease problems.

· Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after the last mowing (late October to early November) for early green-up next spring.

· Click here for the average first and last frost dates in locations around Utah.

Pests and Problems:

· Send diseased vegetable plants and leaves to the local landfill.

· Use burlap or other soft materials to wrap evergreens to prevent snow breakage.

· Treat for Coryneum blight in stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums) when 50 percent of the leaves have dropped.

· Clean up and discard fallen fruit to reduce overwintering sites for disease and insect pests.

Tips for Living in Cougar Country

Reports of cougar sightings have increased across Utah this year. This may be related to both the ongoing drought, as habitat conditions deteriorate, and increased outdoor activity, as humans seek solace from COVID-19. With the onset of fall hunting, fishing, hiking and camping, the chance of encountering a cougar may also increase.

Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, can be readily recognized by their large size, tawny color, white muzzle and long tail.

Although cougars are found all across Utah, they are solitary animals, making them a rare sight. The main prey of cougars is deer, so they can be found wherever deer are found. After making a kill, a cougar will often take the carcass to the base of a tree and cover it with dirt, leaves or snow, saving it to feed on later.

Cougar populations in Utah are managed by the Division of Wildlife Resources. This management includes an annual hunting season to help keep populations in balance with their habitats and reduce the potential for human-wildlife conflicts.

Protect your home and surrounding areas.

* To prevent cougars from becoming nuisance animals, do not feed wildlife on your property. Remove wildlife attractants, including pet food, water sources, bird feeders and fallen fruit.

* Keep your yard deer-proof. If your property and landscaping are attractive to deer and other wildlife, cougars may follow the wildlife into your property while searching for prey. Remove dense vegetation, which can make a perfect hiding place for cougars or other wildlife.

* Do not leave young children outside unattended, especially at dawn and dusk.

* Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a roof.

* Provide a secure shelter for hobby farm animals such as poultry, rabbits and goats.

* Encourage others to follow these tips.

Prevent conflicts while recreating.

* Cougars rarely approach groups of people, so do not hike or jog alone in cougar country. Travel in groups and keep everyone together, including children and dogs. Keep dogs on leashes.

* Make noise while hiking to alert cougars of your presence.

* Leave the area if you find a dead animal, especially deer or elk, since it could be a cougar kill, and the cougar may return to defend its food.

Know what to do if you encounter a cougar.

* Cougars avoid human contact. However, if you encounter a cougar, immediately stop what you are doing. Do not run, as this may provoke a prey response and the cougar may pursue you.

* Do not approach the cougar.

* Make yourself look intimidating. Stand tall and make eye contact with the cougar. Make yourself look bigger by opening your jacket and raising your arms and waving them. 

* Talk firmly in a loud voice, while backing away slowly, and leave the area.

* If you have children with you, pick them up before they panic and run. When you are picking up a child, keep eye contact with the cougar and do not bend over or turn your back.

* If attacked, fight back! Protect your head and neck, as the neck is the target for the cougar. If you are aggressive enough, the cougar may give up and leave.

* If you have an encounter with aggressive wildlife, please alert the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) office near you. If the encounter or sighting occurs after hours or on the weekend, call your local police department or county sheriff’s office. More information is available at Wild Aware Utah.

For more tips, see the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwQ_a3BJhnQ.

By: Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist, terry.messmer@usu.edu