On January 18, 2016

Cougars returning to Vermont?

By ©Susan C. Morse

This “Snowy Cougar” photograph captures the majestic nature of these feline predators.

CHESTER — Susan Morse, nationally known wildlife ecologist and tracker, will present “Coming Soon: The Cougar Returns to the East,” on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. at the News Bank Conference Center in Chester. Morse will present evidence on cougars returning to the East.

“We need our apex carnivores in a big way,” Morse says. “We need them for the health of our forests.”

In some areas of the east, the absence of apex predators has led to a surplus of deer, which have then ravaged the understory and ground levels of vegetation.

Vermont’s last known cougar, also known as a mountain lion or catamount, was killed in 1881 in Barnard. In 2011, a cougar was hit by a car and killed on a Connecticut highway. Subsequent DNA testing found that the animal was from South Dakota. There is no question about it: cougars are not only being seen in eastern North America, some are attempting to recolonize their former habitats.

Where once it was flatly dismissed as impossible in the so-called “developed” East, scientists have now documented cougar dispersals and reoccupation of a growing list of eastern states and provinces.

The presentation promises to be a magnificently illustrated introduction to cougar biology and ecology in the broad diversity of habitats where Morse has studied them, from Alberta to the Mexican border. She will also discuss the latest confirmations of cougars in the East, including the recently documented suitability of a substantial amount of wild habitats from Manitoba to Louisiana and Maine to Georgia.

This indoor environmental education talk is geared to adults and children over 10. More information visit www.nature-museum.org. Tickets at the door will be $10 until sold out. The News Bank Conference Center is located at 352 Main Street in Chester.

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