Part 2 "Coming Soon" Sue Morse Presentation at Pittsfield

The program was organized almost exclusively around a series of her own excellent photographs. A narrative was developed to use with each slide. Typically, speakers select a number important topics that they wish to talk about such as mortality, gestation, dispersal and the like and then locate appropriate photographs and videos from a variety of sources to illustrate these points. Sue took a different approach. Since she hadnít taken photographs of cougars killing deer or engaged in every conceivable behavior one might want to include in a program about catamounts (who could?) and she didn't use any suitable ones found in the public domain, slides of pumas in ordinary poses were substituted so that the listener had to imagine lions leaping up to tree branches or bringing deer down rather than seeing an image of the real thing. Judging by the number of kittens photos the audience got to see, they must be a favorite subject of hers but Morse didnít show them concealed in rock shelters or engaged in any especially interesting activity like traipsing through the snow or chasing rabbits that had some educational purpose.

The presentation wasnít organized in any particular order or divided up into blocks beginning with a title page so the audience understood what was coming next. She bounced from topic to topic without explaining how these photos were related to each other; one minute it was moose tick infestations and then it was on to another series of cute kitten faces. Environmental issues about preserving forests, maintaining wildlife corridors and similar topics folks like to hear about were inserted in the monologue. Although these issues are popular with ďgreeniesĒ, it is unclear how these principles could be applied to cougars reoccupying the region. Without a doubt, New England has itís own environmental issues to deal with but we arenít facing the same problems as California where 6,000 mountain lion live in and around 39 million people. Twelve lane highways and habitat fragmentation are isolating major puma populations. Genetic bottlenecks are a problem for California cougars but not for the ones around here (yet). As Morse correctly pointed out, the Northeast is one of the most densely forested areas in the nation. With a few exceptions, mountain lions are able to move about in New England with little interference from natural or man made or obstacles. Crossing Interstate 95 in Foxborough on a Sunday afternoon when the Patriots have a home game is one of the exceptions!

Many subjects that average people who attended the presentation might have wanted to hear about like mortality, home range sizes, dispersal, or color variations received scant attention while precious minutes were spent on how to distinguish lynx from bobcats. The urban cougar phenomenon is of special interest to New England Wildlife agencies in general and suburbanites in particular because of the proximity of deer to settled area. Deer are favorite prey of pumas and the cats often follow whitetails into town and cities at dusk. The audience at Pittsfield was never briefed about that. Morse deftly side stepped routine questions from patrons about hunting quotas and home range sizes which any expert could have easily answered in 25 words or less. Much time was devoted to the Black Hills, especially dispersal, while nothing was said about eastern Canada where multiple cougar populations have been identified by scientists. These provinces are the likely sources of some lions in NE. A lactating female cougar, for example, was road killed in Quebec about 100 miles N/E of her home in Vermont but that event apparently wasnít relevant enough to be included in her presentation. Photos of her house cat scratching her riding boots were.

Part 3 coming


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