Saturday, July 30, 2011

A few quick updates...

It's been another lousy month for me where blogging is concerned, but before July fizzles out I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of interesting things. First, there's been another addition to the growing list of natural history collection blogs, in the form of Elee Kirk's 'Stuffed Stuff: Adventures in Natural History Museums and Taxidermy'; it's fun, and if you're at all interested in the weird and wonderful side of our profession, I certainly urge you to go take a look.

Next, Carl Zimmer kindly drew my attention to this excellent conference. Sadly, I shall be attending another meeting in late October, but if you live in Pennsylvania and believe that you share your beautiful state with large, hairy, non-human primates, this is the meeting for you. As a bonus, you get to hear about aliens as well!

While we're on the subject of cryptozoology, it's summertime, which invariably means British big cat sightings. As you may recall, we've discussed this phenomenon in an earlier post; no need to rehash it here, other than to note that the British big cat cryptozoology community was dealt a body blow two weeks ago with the closure of its professional journal, the News of the World. Anyhoo, it's my home state that has been making the running in the puma stakes recently.

First, puma sightings in Greenwich, CT back in May turned out to be - amazingly - a puma! Then, even more amazing, it now seems that it walked here from South Dakota. Apparently young males often disperse long distances in search of mates. This one apparently took a wrong turn, hiking 1,500 miles in search of sex, only to be run down by a car. As my colleague Greg noted, this was the feline equivalent of Spring Break.

There are a few points here that set this apart from a British big cat story, and any readers of a cryptozoological bent might want to take note of them. First, there was "evidence," in the form of 140lbs of dead puma, rather than a blurry photo of next door's cat. Next, "science" (as opposed to the preferred crptozoological methodology of "guess") was used to show that the animal was actually from a known population of cougars, rather than some long-lost population of the Eastern cougar that had survived since the 1930s without anyone noticing.

Third, cougars are actually native to North America and this one walked here, an option not available to any cougar wishing to colonize Britain. Finally, despite the fact that we live in a heavily wooded state, with nearly 60% forest cover and abundant deer, this thing still ended up dead on a highway with an empty stomach. So how long do you think it would have lasted in, say, Gloucestershire?

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