Join cougar scientist Dr. Mark Elbroch of Panthera, local members of the Olympic Cougar Project and human movement biomechanist Katy Bowman to learn about local big cats — and why both humans and big cats need ample natural areas for their well-being — at “Puma Catwalk,” a free event set for noon-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at Robin Hill County Park, 323 Pinell Road.
This family-friendly, outdoor event will be open for walkers to take part in the “Puma Catwalk,” a two-mile walk where movers follow signs that include movement and tracker challenges, fun facts and photographs of our big cat neighbors in the Olympic Peninsula. It will be held rain or shine.
Bowman will have copies of her newest book, “Grow Wild: The Whole Child, Whole Family, Nature-Rich Guide to Moving More,” available for purchase and signing. Elbroch will have copies of his field guides and newest book, “The Cougar Conundrum: Sharing the World with a Successful Predator,” also on hand for purchase and signing.
Panthera is devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their ecosystems. “Panthera is the only cat-specific science conservation organization in the world,” said Elbroch.
The Sequim “Puma Catwalk” is a live and local community version of their international virtual Catwalk happening the same day. Catwalk’s aim, event organizers say, is “to activate fitness and learning, and in doing so create a community that is not only informed,but also invested, and whose engagement in the support of cat conservation becomes ongoing.”
Elbroch is an ecologist, author and storyteller, with dual interests in animal tracking and mountain lions. He is a scientist for Panthera, studying mountain lion ecology. He is also an animal tracker working to preserve ancient skills and elevate their applications in a modern world (visit markelbroch.com for more about Elbroch).
“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with Nutritious Movement and to join a community event to share about our exciting work with local cougars,” he said.
Bowman is the author of several books about importance of movement, not only for our own bodies but for our communities and environment. (Learn more about her at nutritiousmovement.com; her storefront is located at 202 N. Sequim Ave.)
The Olympic Cougar Project is co-led by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Panthera in collaboration with the Skokomish, Makah, Quinault, Jamestown S’Klallam, Point-No-Point Treaty Council, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes and the Washington Department of Transportation.
“(The Olympic Cougar Project’s) primary goal is to understand cougar genetics on the Peninsula,” explained Kim Sager-Fradkin, the Wildlife Program Manager for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. She said cougars here have a lower genetic diversity and that they are studying their movement patterns, “particularly the younger ones after they leave their mothers: how they eat, where they settle and whether they can make it off the Peninsula,” she said.
Both Elbroch and Sager-Fradkin emphasized that the health of our ecosystem is tied into the health of the cougar population.
“Ecosystems with cougars are healthier, stronger and more vibrant, and because people are dependent upon healthy ecosystems too, that means quite simply that cougars help sustain healthier human communities,” said Elbroch.
Sager-Fradkin said that using cougars as a keystone or umbrella species helps researchers study other species and that when they kill elk or deer, they provide food for other species, such as insects, ravens, crows, bald eagles and golden eagles. “Cougars are helping to feed the forest; they don’t eat it all in one sitting and when they leave it all these others come in — spotted skunks, bobcats, coyotes, and bears — lots of insects and other animals come to eat.
“At least 9 or 10 people involved in the project will be (at the Puma Catwalk),” said Sager-Fradkin.
“This local event was spawned from two other events,” Bowman said. “Panthera was launching their first ever Catwalk — an international virtual walking event to raise awareness for big cat conservation, also on Nov. 7, and I had just finished doing a book walk … where folks walk by installed signs that they can read or look at for the photos — for the launch of my latest book ‘Grow Wild,’ a book about the importance of connecting human bodies, especially kid-bodies, to natural movements in green spaces.”
Bowman said she and Elbroch are both nature-loving community members with young children they take into the woods often.
“So we often run (or is it hike?) in the same circles,” Bowman said. “We discussed bringing this event to life, and how we might create a community version of the larger initiative, that tied the human movement piece to the big cat’s need for movement and habitat and the ‘Team Puma Catwalk’ was born.
“We held an outside meeting at Robin Hill park to work through some of the details. Mark noted cougars do occasionally pass through this park, and we thought it was a great fit—to learn about our own local big cats on their own turf. The walk consists of about 80 signs with stunning photographs of cougars doing all sorts of things, facts about cats and movement experiences the entire family can have fun trying.”
Tickets are free but registration is required; get more information at tinyurl.com/CatwalkSequim. Attendees are encouraged to bring a mask in case they are closer than 6 feet with someone outside their party/family.