U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Concludes Eastern Cougar Extinct

By: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Release
By: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Release

Although the eastern cougar has been on the endangered species list since 1973, its existence has long been questioned. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) conducted a formal review of the available information and, in a report issued today, March 2 concludes the eastern cougar is extinct and recommends the subspecies be removed from the endangered species list.

“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.”

Reports of cougars observed in the wild examined during the review process described cougars of other subspecies, often South American subspecies, that had been held in captivity and had escaped or been released to the wild, as well as wild cougars of the western United States subspecies that had migrated eastward to the Midwest.

During the review, the Service received 573 responses to a request for scientific information about the possible existence of the eastern cougar subspecies; conducted an extensive review of U.S. and Canadian scientific literature; and requested information from the 21 States within the historical range of the subspecies. No States expressed a belief in the existence of an eastern cougar population. According to Dr. Mark McCollough, the Service’s lead scientist for the eastern cougar, the subspecies of eastern cougar has likely been extinct since the 1930s.

The Service initiated the review as part of its obligations under the Endangered Species Act. The Service will prepare a proposal to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list, since extinct animals are not eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal will be made available for public comment.

The Service's decision to declare the eastern cougar extinct does not affect the status of the Florida panther, another wild cat subspecies listed as endangered. Though the Florida panther once ranged throughout the Southeast, it now exists in less than five percent of its historic habitat and in only one breeding population of 120 to 160 animals in southwestern Florida.

Additional information about eastern cougars, including frequently asked questions and cougar sightings, is at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ecougar. Find information about endangered species at http://www.fws.gov/endangered.

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  • by Georgia Mom Location: Whigham on Mar 2, 2011 at 03:40 PM
    So are the 'panthers' we see in our area Florida panthers? I've seen 2 in the past 6 months in Grady County.
  • by nature lover Location: ga on Mar 2, 2011 at 01:46 PM
    i hope they are wrong. it is a sad day when another animal goes extinc. this cat looks like what we in south ga. call a bob cat. god gave us a beautiful perfet world and we destroyed it.
  • by MAX on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:22 PM
    I have personally seen cougars on my property in GA. There was a Florida Panther shot by a hunter near Americus, GA last year. GA DNR and FWC both confirmed that it was a Florida Panther through DNA tests. There are more of these animals than people think. Every year these animals are seen more often in GA and every year FWC and DNR try to downplay there existance, just like they once did with black bears. There are more black bears near Tallahassee than we can count.
  • by Mark on Mar 2, 2011 at 09:21 AM
    Tyrone, will I see you there again tonight? Had so much fun with you last week.
  • by Mugsey on Mar 2, 2011 at 08:57 AM
    Tyrone, that was hilarious!
  • by Ezekiel Cheevers on Mar 2, 2011 at 08:36 AM
    I remembering back in the 50's when myself and Ezra eats these for dinner. Ezra be telling me they kinda taste like a cross between one of them dugongs and a bald eagle. Be tasty as all get out!
  • by redhead on Mar 2, 2011 at 08:29 AM
    Ahahahaha, Tyrone, thank you for the funny!
  • by Anonymous on Mar 2, 2011 at 08:19 AM
    What exactly does removing an animal (that is extinct) from a list accomplish? How much was spent on this research in order to remove an animal that doesn't exist from a list? I can see doing research to add an animal, but to remove?
  • by Tyrone Location: FAMU on Mar 2, 2011 at 08:09 AM
    I've seen lots of Eastern Cougars at Cafe Cabernet
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