Eastern cougar declared extinct, confirming decades of suspicion
The last eastern puma, seen here with biologist Bruce Wright, was trapped and mounted in Somerset County, Maine, in 1938.
March 2nd, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Eastern cougar declared extinct, confirming decades of suspicion

The eastern cougar has been declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirming decades of suspicion that the elusive subspecies was no more.

The large, solitary predatory cat once lived in every Eastern U.S. state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains and forests, said Dr. Mark McCollough, the agency's lead scientist for the eastern cougar. But you've probably never seen an eastern cougar - the last confirmed identification was in 1938 in Maine.

Other subspecies of the cougar, also known commonly as mountain lions, wildcats, panthers and pumas, still exist in the United States, including the Florida panther.

Scientists have held out hope, based on scattered reports, that a few eastern cougars remained. Those sightings turned out to be other subspecies from the Western United States - where the cougar population is growing and expanding its range eastward - or captive animals that were freed or escaped.

"We still have cougars and mountain lions in the United States that look identical to what we had in eastern North America, and that's probably what people are still seeing," McCollough said. "But the scientific and historical evidence point to the conclusion that the eastern cougar subspecies has not existed for a while."

It typically takes the agency a long time - and a lot of field work - to officially declare an animal extinct. People often confuse cougars with white-tailed deer, bobcats, even yellow labs, said Martin Miller, the service's Northeast Region chief of endangered species.

But near the sites of reported spottings, scientists have been unable to find the physical marks commonly associated with cougars in the wild, such as scratching posts and cached animal remains.

"We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar," Miller said. "However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar."

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Filed under: Animals
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. History Channel

    Not true,The eastern cougar will be making a comeback on history channels..monster,myths and legends.

    March 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa Mitchell

      @ Bacos....LMMFAO!!! They have all migrated to the West Coast!!

      March 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Too funny BACOs..witty

      March 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cory

      Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

      March 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TA

      This is not True! I have seen the eastern courgar in many places on the east coast. About 5 foot tall with very teased hair and wearing leopard skirts! They are alive and well.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe in Colorado

      My great grandfather (deceased of old age since 1984) grew up in a rural heavily-wooded region of West Virginia and used to see these cats when he was a teenager. He said walking through the woods sometimes you could see one in the trees, and said they would let out the most hideous "scream", which didn't sound like a roar but instead almost like a woman's scream. Unfortunately, they were hunted to extinction.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest

      I don't know how some of you can joke about this. It's ashame and very sad. I am sure there will be more to come of a lot of different species. Maybe even the human race. This isn't something that should be laughed at.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robin Bray

      And yet more advertising thrown into our faces. Too bad the History Channel died about ten years ago along with HGTV, A&E. TLC, MTV and Bravo. They all lost their direction and went extinct replaced by "reality" shows.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • really?


      It's not like the last one died today. Likely, it's been extinct for 60+ years.

      We're just now declaring it. I think enough time has passed that we can joke about it.

      Or is it too soon for my 'Cougar Cruise' joke?

      March 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @guest – oh, please. Everything comes and goes. Who's to say western cougars didn't breed them out? What's the diff, anyway? I saw a cougar a few years ago by lake oologah. That was awesome.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • chyrd

      Yes, it's sad until you realize that 99% of all life that ever inhabited earth is now extinct.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff


      March 2, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      They should perhaps come and take a look around New Brunswick. We live on the Bay of Fundy Coast and there have been repeated sightings of Eastern Cougars. They are elusive and likely scarce but we are still seeing them.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ttommy

      Congratulations America. Another one bites the dust!

      March 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      This is such a sad story! They look too delicious to be extinct.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      Ttommy – Please demand a refund of the money which was spent educating you. These cougars haven't been seen since the 1940's. Back then, the Europeans (who I'm sure you love so much) were busy trying to make every HUMAN ethnic group that wasn't Aryan "extinct". But yeah, shame on America for hunting some wild animals. Tool.

      March 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth Erwin

      If the Eastern Cougar is extinct, how is it that an occasional cougar is spotted in the northern GA mountains? I know of a family who caught one on a security camera this past December, prowling near their deck. Are such animals transplanted cougars of some other type?

      March 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Novembereign

      Come to the bar where I live on a Friday night I will find you about ten cougars. Best time is around wine o clock.

      March 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • pismire

      East Coast Cougars.... West Coast Cougars...I wish they all could be California Cougars.

      March 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bearclaw Palin

    From my window..you can see Russia while standing on my eastern cougar rug... .

    March 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • 4Mom25

      Although I like Sarah, and I am very conservative. . . that is still very, very funny!! HAHAHA!

      March 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    So that is the best picture they could find? One that was hunted and stuffed?

    March 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cydonic

      If you read the caption, you see that it's the last of its kind.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • karmaapple

      If it was the last of it's kind, maybe it shouldn't have been hunted and stuffed.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • surfdog11

      They needed an example of what was lost....

      March 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Auntie Warhol

      Yeah, why couldn't they find a live one?

      March 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      The cameras in 1938 were not as good as they are now.. 🙂

      March 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raymond

      Auntie, Maybe because it is extinct!! Thats why they couldnt find a live one!

      March 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I'd feel awful if I found out I'd killed the last Eastern Couger. But most hunters don't care at all. I know there are plenty who DO care, but the majority always say the animals were put here by God for our entertainment to hunt, train or butcher.

      I'd be ashamed if I were the man in that photo.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Kid, if you were the man in that picture, you'd be DEAD. It WAS taken in 1938.
      And as a hunter, I greatly resent your characterization that the majority of hunters don't care about wildlife conservation.
      Were that hunter to have been informed that HIS picture with the mounted cat was the LAST one to be seen today, he most likely WOULD have felt horribly about it and become the greatest conservationist on the planet.
      As that is impossible for him to have known, he smiled for the picture.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Krista

    Just like the last passenger pidgeon (shot by a kid with a slingshot), here the last of the species is killed by some stupid yahoo and mounted as a trophy... And people wonder why they're extinct?

    March 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlin


      I believe overall the article states that the last one died in a zoo.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tuut

      The last confirmed specimen of a passenger pigeon died in captivity in a zoo, I believe it was the Cincinnati Zoo. Does make you wonder why a biologist would trap, kill and mount an endangered species. But I guess in those days that was the normal procedure for research.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      The biologist did not shoot the cougar. They said the cougar was killed in 1938. That photo is quite obviously not from 1938.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Death Panel Sarah

      How do you know they killed it? It says they TRAPPED it. Of course it would be stuffed now, it's been 73 years!!! It probably died a natural death and THEN they stuffed it...... think a little before you type.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • DeeBee

      Apparently, the last passenger pigeon died in the same cage in which the last Carolina Parakeet died.

      March 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tone

    typical moronic things to say...its people like you that are the reason animals and our planet our dying...

    March 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • bacos

      Ok, folks, you heard it here:

      Jokes kill animals! And probably babies!

      Oh, the humanity–or not.

      March 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      Ridiculous. Almost every species of animal that ever existed has gone extinct. Get over it. The planet is not dying. Humans may be endandered (also doubtful), but the planet is doing just fine. Humans can't screw things up enough to get rid of the planet and all forms of life. Cougar jokes are inevitable in response to this story, and I for one love it.

      I think it is incredibly arrogant for humans to assume we are some sort of caretakers of the world and have to save every species frome extinction. We are just like any other animal competing for resources and attempting to exert dominance over other animals. We are no different than lions feasting on gazzelles or whales consuming krill, we are just better at it than other animals. I don't think the dinosaurs sat around and tried to figure out how to be more respectful of mammals and prevent our extinction.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drinker

      C You are right, the planet will survive. It would be a much better place without people like you. Humans have the intelligence to stop the raping of the planet and stop being the direct cause of the extinction of so many species. You are the dinosaur!

      March 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eli

    I think NY City has lots of Cougars. 🙂

    March 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      I was waiting for that one . . . 😉

      March 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Death Panel Sarah

      I used to drive one.....
      I do not think it is stuffed, now, though....

      March 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. arizonan44

    bring them back just like they did the wolf hear in az

    March 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krista

      You can't bring them back if they're extinct. Unless they have some in captivity (doubtful) or can get some pure DNA to clone.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I can't HEAR youuuu! ? :)))

      March 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      HEAR in AZ, we really never learned the proper usage of words. The job of teachers goes to the lowest bidder. But hey, at least my taxes are low.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • arizonan44

      sorry about the misspell , hope I did not confuse anyone, but my point is the wolf they put in az is not the same as the wolves we had here.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Death Panel Sarah

      Krista.....extinct means none alive captivity or otherwise...

      March 2, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 2tired2care

    Man can be soooo destructive and yet he can't eradicate things like the flying carp in the great lakes and the Mississippi river.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Yep. We believe we are the master of the planet. Sadly we are not. We will be the cause of our own extinction because we tried to be the master of nature instead of trying to live with nature.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. freakey toney

    iIt goes good with some mashed potatoes and cole slaw.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Disco Stu

    I beg to differ – the Eastern Cougar is alive and well at singles bars all across the eastern seaboard

    March 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tone deaf

    you tell them tone! these dang bloggers are endangering our wildlife.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joe

    The liberal media could probably find the Eastern Cougar if it weren't so lazy.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Waldo

    Hey tone deaf you are right we need to take care of big cats and all wildlife. Tone, do you watch animal planet. I do. Do you. Tell me. Do you have pets Tone Deaf. I bet you have a dog and 3 cats. Right or am I close.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Davet

    What are they saying? "People have seen cougars in their historic range, but they couldn't be eastern courgars"? Do they scratch differently in the east than the west?
    So lets move some from the west, let them breed and they will then be "eastern cougars" eating eastern whitetails. It's all good.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krista

      They were a distinct sub-species. That means differences in the DNA. They may have even had unique behaviors or physical characteristics. The other cougars Might fit the same niche, but it's not the same animal.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lawrence

    "People often confuse cougars with white-tail deer..." I'd have to say those people are probably confused about a lot of things if that throws them off.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      My guess its because they see a flash of something moving in the brush and think they saw a cougar when in reality t was a deer. I don't think these are people who stare at an animal for 30 seconds trying to identify it and come up with cougar when it was a deer.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Death Panel Sarah

      Must be that Kentucky moonshine flashing!!!!

      March 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
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