Terry Messmer

Not your friendly Christmas mouse

Nov 26, 2021

 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”   These are the opening lines in the poem - The Night Before Christmas. The poem creates a false impression of slumbering mice awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus when in reality mice are most active at night. 

USU Extension

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.


Living With Utah's Wildlife Responsibly

Sep 23, 2021

As Utah continues to grow, humans and wildlife will compete more and more for space and the number of interactions between humans and wildlife will increase. With outdoor recreation also becoming more popular, more citizens are concerned about how to be safe in areas shared by humans and wildlife.

Ask An Expert: Bats Making Recent Appearances

Sep 16, 2021
USU Extension

If you have spotted bats near your home or nearby structures, you are not alone. Bats are migratory and may take up residence in chimneys, structures and homes when they can find an opening. Once inside, they may form a nursery colony where they raise their young. About this time of the year, the young will take flight, and the increased activity may result in a noticeable number of droppings.


Bats Beware: Avoiding Rabies From Bats

Aug 13, 2021

In 2020, a colony of bats made an unscheduled appearance at an NBA basketball game.  Bats descended from the rafters of Dallas Mavericks stadium and flittered above and among an unsuspecting crowd and players. Officials suspended game and tried to net and remove the animals. 

Coexisting With Wildlife During A Drought

Jun 23, 2021

Just as humans must learn to adapt to changes in water availability during a drought, so must wildlife. Less water means less available habitat for wildlife, and since Utah is home to a sizable number of wildlife species, prolonged drought can create a perfect storm for human-wildlife conflict at the urban-wildland interface. 

Just as humans must learn to adapt to changes in water availability during a drought, so must wildlife. Less water means less available habitat for wildlife, and since Utah is home to a sizable number of wildlife species, prolonged drought can create a perfect storm for human-wildlife conflict at the urban-wildland interface.

Ask An Expert : Backyard Chicken Ranching, Rodents And COVID-19

Jan 25, 2021

In response to social distancing guidelines, innovative Utahns have found activities that allow them to be with family and also explore new adventures. In 2020 during COVID-19, Utah state park visitation rates increased by 36% during recreation months compared to 2019.

COVID-19, Backyard Chicken Ranching, And Rodents

Jan 16, 2021


COVID-19 has caused all to change and adapt to new social distancing guidelines to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on their lives and communities.  In response to social distancing guidelines, innovative Utahns have engaged in new activities that still allow for family contact and explore new adventures. These activities have included increased participation in outdoor recreation and backyard agriculture to include gardening and chicken.

Be Aware Of Wildlife This Winter Season

Dec 22, 2020

Winter is a time of reduced food supplies and covers for most wildlife. Just as we humans prepare for winter, so must Utah's wildlife. To survive winter wildlife must either hibernate, migrate or adapt.

Living with Cougars in Utah

Oct 23, 2020

In recent weeks, reports of cougar sightings have increased across Utah.

How Close Is Too Close To Wildlife?

Sep 15, 2020

In recent weeks curious but misguided wildlife watchers and national parks have unfortunate encounters with wildlife. The Wildlife watchers were using their smartphones to video and photograph wildlife.


Irresponsible recreation, particularly when camping, can endanger you and your family as well as other campers. If a wild animal receives a food reward, it will likely seek out other areas frequented by humans for food. This behavior can result in human injury as well as the removal or death of wildlife.

Baby Wildlife

May 29, 2020

“Daddy can I keep him?” There's something about this phrase and its companion phrase, “Mama Can I keep him?” which can melt the heart of any parent. When accompanied by a child's woeful pleading, loving stare and followed up with “he followed me home where I found them all alone under a tree, rock, or bush” will almost certainly assure that him or her whether it be a puppy, kitten, or baby wildlife will find a new home.

Stop The Spread: Lessons Learned From Wildlife

Apr 29, 2020
bat hanging from a tree

COVID-19 is zoonosis. Zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals through eventual evolutionary changes, perhaps over decades. The virus eventually gained the ability to spread from human to human. The war between humans and these parasites has been a dominating force in both human and disease evolution.

Zoonosis, Bats, And COVID-19: A Green Thumb Commentary

Mar 23, 2020
A medical mask and latex examination gloves

At the time this commentary was prepared, media reports had traced the cause of the outbreak back to  Horseshoe bats.

The Impact Of Ravens And Feral Cats

Feb 24, 2020

“Silent Spring” is an environmental science book written by Rachel Carson and originally published in 1962 as a warning to society about the effects of indiscriminate use of pesticides on birds.

Wild Animals Are Not Pets

Jan 29, 2020

A five year old boy in Texas was hospitalized after being mauled by a pet mountain lion kept by his aunt.

A Pennsylvania woman died after being attacked by her pet 350-pound black bear that she had raised from a cub.

A red fox pup was turned into a shelter by a family that had kept it in captivity. The fox became blind because it was not being properly fed.

A young boy in Utah who was attacked by his pet raccoon, required medical attention.

Wildlife Winterization And You

Oct 18, 2019

The falls in Utah are arguably one of the best seasons to enjoy the outdoors. As the heat of the summer abates and the days shorten, the landscape becomes ablaze with vibrant colors and are a cacophony of new sounds. Elk bugling and flocks of cackling migrating geese overhead herald the changing season and the onset of winter.


As more people recreate in Utah's outdoors, the chance of encountering wildlife also increases.  Whether that encounter will be positive or negative depends on what people know about living and recreating near and in wildlife's habitat.  

'Living In Snake Country – Six Things To Consider' on Wild About Utah

Jul 5, 2019
Ana Meister / Pixabay

Summer is here.  People will be using the great outdoors more often, and that includes the many tourists who have discovered Utah’s beauty and diversity.  Caution is always needed when traveling in wild country, and today I refer to an article titled Living in Snake Country-Six Things to Consider written by Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist. 

Humans, Snakes, And Snake Bites

Jun 20, 2019
M. Maggs / Pixabay

Most human fears regarding snakes seem to stem from the fear of being bitten by a venomous snake.  Because most snakes in Utah are non-venomous, most human snake encounters are generally not dangerous, however if you encounter a venomous snake and are bitten, the consequences could be serious. 

Rebirth Of Spring For Animals And Humans

May 25, 2019
Pixabay - Skeeze

For most wild animals, spring is the time of year when the seasonal cycle is renewed.  Spring birthing and nesting is adaptive in that the young are born when the conditions are favorable, and food resource is most abundant, increasing the chance of survival.  While some learn survival from one or both parents, others normally receive little or no parental care. 

Wikimedia Commons


The State of Utah and the Bureau of Land Management recently revised plans to restore and manage populations of Greater Sage Grouse in the Intermountain West — and researchers say this time, they got it right.

Human-Wildlife Interactions

May 13, 2019
Pixabay - skeeze

In 1999 I presented a paper on the status of human-wildlife conflict at an annual meeting of the international biodeterioration and biodegradation society.  The paper was entitled The emergence of wildlife conflict management, turning challenges into opportunities.


In recent weeks the popular press and social media has picked up on reports of an infectious disease in deer known as chronic wasting disease. CWD has now been confirmed in 24 states including Utah. Some experts quoted in the media have dubbed the deer afflicted with this disease as “zombie deer” because they believe the disease could one day affect human beings. 


Knock-knock! Who’s there? Recently, some Utah homeowners who live near wooded areas have awakened to mysterious knocking sounds in their walls. The source of the knocking has been identified as a species of bird known as a woodpecker. Those who may choose to ignore the knocking might be in for a surprise this spring when they find that the woodpecker has taken up residency within the wall.

Ode To A Christmas Mouse

Dec 23, 2018

Tis the night before Christmas when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. These are the opening lines of the poem entitled, The Night Before Christmas. Charles Moore wrote the poem for his family on Christmas Eve in 1822.


Halloween’s scariest animals. Bats are mammals that fly. But it was Bram Stokers “Dracula” that forever linked bats to vampires on Halloween.