For decades, scientist Susan Morse has studied cougars, bobcats, black bears and the Canada lynx. In the process, she has become an expert in carnivore tracking and natural history.
She has also taken hundreds of great photographs and accumulated a lifetime’s worth of original anecdotes.
From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 6, Morse will be sharing those photos and stories in a presentation at the Floral Hall of the Essex County Fairgrounds in Westport. There will also be hundreds of track molds, pelts, bones, antlers and mounts on display.
“For the wildlife enthusiasts, this is going to be a lot of fun,” said Morse, who is the founder of an organization called Keeping Track. “There’s a lot of anecdotes and stories from my past as a field scientist, when I studied mountain lions out west, for example.”
Morse is likely one of the few authorities on mountain lions in the Northeast. She has spent time studying them in the western part of the U.S. and in Florida.
“They are in our future,” Morse said. “They are making a steady eastward spread. There are occasional animals that have reached our region, somehow, someway, undoubtedly. Some may be released pets, but I firmly believe some are legitimate transients that have made it here. I don’t believe we have a breeding population yet, but that’s around the corner.”
The eastward migration of mountain lions is directly linked to another topic that Morse will touch upon at the show: the importance of wildlife corridors.
“The Adirondacks is the crown jewel of the state for its extraordinary assemblage of habitats,” Morse said. “Unfortunately, it can’t be viable in the long term in isolation of its connections to other wonderful habitats, including the Green Mountains and southeastern Canada. Scientists worldwide are really beginning to grasp this in a big way. That we need to save the larger fabric of habitat connectivity. Not that we need to save 6 million more acres of habitat around the Adirondacks — we don’t want to scare anyone off with that notion — but we certainly do need to be sensible about other protected parklands in the larger eco-region, and how they support the Adirondacks and, in turn, are supported by them.”
Morse is also the founder of Keeping Track, which is based in Huntington, Vt. Among the organization’s goals is to teach adults and children to observe, interpret, record and monitor evidence of wildlife habitat in their communities, and to support the use of monitoring data by citizens in local and regional conservation planning.
In addition to enjoying the event, the organizers are hoping that people will sign up at the show for a training program that will be offered this winter by Keeping Track. The program would lead to a monitoring program in the Champlain Valley.
The show will cost $2 per person or $5 per family. The event is sponsored by Champlain Area Trails, Champlain Valley Conservation Partnership, The Northeast Wilderness Trust, The Adirondack Council and Champlain National Bank.
“This is a show that will appeal to hunters and trappers and farmers and foresters and birders and poets and card-carrying Earth Firsters,” Morse said. “We’re all in this together. We have a grand planet out there, but it’s up to us in the next decade to be decisive and make the right decisions about what remains of our natural resources and how the best best to steward them.”
Bobcat by Susan Morse