"Coming Soon" Sue Morse Presentation at Pittsfield

Puma enthusiasts, students, wildlife advocates, and local residents flocked to the Berkshires Community College to hear a presentation titled “Coming Soon” about mountain lions in the East. It was given by Sue Morse of Vermont who is a familiar figure in environmental circles. She has lots of practical experience with mountain lions out West. Sue also has a national reputation as a photographer, researcher and expert tracker. Her talk drew a large crowd that filled the Boland theater to capacity.

Morse is an entertaining speaker and the show was fun to sit through. Her soothing voice, smooth transitions and amusing narratives made this presentation a crowd pleaser. Her warmth and talent for getting a message across, however, was wasted when she spoke about things unrelated to pumas. In fact, very little of this 60 minute program had to do with cougars reoccupying the region despite what the sponsors promised. The show really was about Sue Morse's photographic abilities which are considerable. A majority of the photos that covered subjects like tracks, scrapes, and body sizes were ones she had taken herself but few had any kind of text or subject titles to embellish her story line. Her skills with a camera were brilliantly showcased but a Google search would have given her a better selection of photos and maps on subjects like predation or dispersal that received little or no coverage.

“Errors and omissions” might be too strong a phrase to describe her PowerPoint program -although important information was overlooked or ignored-but I wouldn’t hesitate to portray it as "style over substance". The program flyer emphasized cougars reappearing in this part of the country but you’d never know it judging by the content. Locals from the Berkshires sitting in this college theater who expected to hear Morse provide lots of information about mountain lions stalking their prey on the outskirts of small towns of New England must have been disappointed. She barely mentioned examples of irrefutable evidence that had been found over the last 50 years such as the Milford road kill which got only a passing comment and that was during Q&A. McCarter’s confirmation and photos of recent tracks Mass Wildlife discovered in the Quabbin didn’t come up either. Morse told the listeners a story about a biologist from Vermont tracking a female cougar and kittens but she didn’t provide details. Since this discovery is one of a handful of examples of natural reproduction by cougars in New England this isn’t a minor point. Curiously, there was virtually nothing about Canadian pumas dispersing south into New England. Given the proximity of Quebec and Ontario to NE it is reasonable to suspect some cougars here may have come from the north. Perhaps she isn’t aware of the number of mountain lions provincial officials think are present (hundreds) or she didn’t have access to the important studies in Quebec and New Brunswick. In any event, this presentation barely touched upon the subject of re-colonization of the Northeast by puma concolor. Rather than giving audience members clues about closely guarded secrets experts like her are privy to, she played it safe.

PART 2 coming


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