Sightings of cougars throughout the east have been reported with greater frequency, though the mystery of whether breeding populations of these big cats are back in Maine remains.

One expert on big cats excitedly acknowledges that cougars are steadily seeking to recolonize many states and provinces east of the Rockies.

Susan C. Morse of Jericho, Vermont, a nationally known tracker and expert on wildlife habitat, will present “Coming Soon: The Cougar Returns to the East,” as part of the Lapping Lecture Series.  Morse was the recipient of Unity College’s 2013 Environmental Leader Award.  Her presentation is slated for 7 p.m. on April 8 at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts (UCCPA), 42 Depot Street in Unity.  The event is free and open to the general public.  The Lapping Lecture Series is named in honor of former Interim President of Unity College, Mark Lapping.

“When I first was studying cougars during the 80s and 90s in habitats as diverse as Alberta, Utah and Arizona I never thought these magnificent cats would make a comeback in our region,” Morse recalls. “Now I am convinced that it is just a matter of time. It will take time, however, because female dispersers will need to gradually make their way here—not just the males that typically seek to occupy vacant habitats hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from their natal range.”

Founder and Science Director of Keeping Track®, Morse has devoted her 40 year career to focusing on wild felids, bears and rapidly expanding or declining cervids.  Through Keeping Track, Morse has taught thousands of scientists, conservation planners, land trust officials and citizen science volunteers tracking and field detection methods that enable accurate documentation of the occupancy and habitat uses of these and other cryptic species.

When not in the field conducting research, leading training programs or photographing wildlife, Morse frequently presents her findings and award-winning images to a wide range of audiences, including the general public, conservation leaders and students of all ages. Over the years, the University of Vermont graduate has served as mentor to aspiring scientists, naturalists, and members of general public who have interest in the natural world.  She has frequently brought curious students along on her forays and in the process, has inspired many to pursue careers in service to the natural world.

She manages her own forestry consulting business, writes a regular column for Northern Woodlands magazine, and illustrates her work with her stunning wildlife photography. She is the author and primary photographer for “A Guide to Recognizing the Florida Panther, Its Tracks and Sign,” published by Defenders of Wildlife-Florida. She also has authored numerous articles and is currently under contract with Princeton University Press to write and illustrate a book that will introduce in detail many of the detection and monitoring methods that she teaches.

For more information on Morse consult Keeping Track.

The presentation is co-sponsored by the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust and Unity College.

Friday, March 28, 2014