Eastern Cougar Now Officially Extinct

Yes, the eastern cougar has been declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s very sad news, indeed, but in a world that is in the midst of the 6th mass extinction, it is not even close to a surprise.

In 1973, the eastern cougar was listed as an endangered species. But it has been wondered for a long time now if it exists or not. After conducting a formal review based on currently available information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared it extinct yesterday.

“We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar,” said the Service’s Northeast Region Chief of Endangered Species Martin Miller. “However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.”

The Easter Cougar

The eastern cougar and its relatives around North America have been given many names, often indicating the elusiveness and mysteriousness of this solitary hunter. Some of these names include ghost cat, catamount, puma, painter, panther, mountain lion, and… cougar.

The cougar (or whatever you want to call it) is the largest cat in North America. Cougars once covered a large portion of North America, but were wiped out pretty thoroughly by humans as the continent was developed.

“At one time, they lived in every Eastern state in a variety of habitats including coastal marshes, mountains and forests,” FWS reports. Considered a threat to livestock, “they were hunted and trapped relentlessly until they
were extirpated throughout most of their range” by humans, their only ‘natural’ enemy. Deforestation also contributed to their decline, as it reduced the population of the white-tailed deer it mainly hunted.

“Only western cougars still live in large enough numbers to maintain breeding populations, and they live on wild lands in the western United States and Canada,” FWS reports.

How the FWS Declared the Eastern Cougar Extinct

FWS requested scientific information about the possible existence of the eastern cougar for its analysis and received a total of 573 response.

FWS also requested information on the cougar from 21 states, which covered the historical range of the subspecies. “No States expressed a belief in the existence of an eastern cougar population,” FWS reported.

It is believed the eastern cougar has actually been extinct since the 1930s.

The Florida panther, a subspecies related to the eastern cougar that is also listed as endangered, is not affected in any way by this FWS finding and announcement. It is the only breeding population of cougars east of the Mississippi.

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Photo via Wikipedia

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