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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soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Limeydawg

    Perhaps if they hadn't captured and mounted that last one in 1938...just saying....

    March 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tony

    I once shagged an Eastern cougar. She was GRRRRREAT!

    March 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Captain_Colossal

    The last eastern puma, as pictured in 1938, appears to be dead and been to the taxidermist.

    March 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Steven

    Stupid F$ck*ng Rednecks ruining our planet. Thank's....Our childrens children are gunna be SET -_- /sarcasom

    March 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. East Coast

    Let's never let anyone or anything go extinct again! Let's go against all natural selection and keep everything alive! Have Noah's Ark like containment places all over the world breeding and breeding every species. As soon as nature decides to decline a population, BAM! send out the reserves! People need to realize that back in the past when animals naturally went extinct, there wasn't a NEWS ARTICLE about it for crying out loud. It happens.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ebradst

      TD7777...

      "Are you for real? This wasnt natural selection, this was human destruction."

      No, it's natural selection. Humans are a species. The population of said species grew. The particular environment could not sustain both human and cougar populations. Thus, nature selected human population over the cougar population. The end.

      March 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Benjamin

    I am from New Brunswick, Canada and believe I saw one in 2004. I grew up in a very rural area and am very familiar with many of the large cats. This was a completely different animal from anything I have seen in real life or in pictures. It was in the Juniper area. It was tan coloured with very thick, stocky legs, and a very large head and thick long tail. It crossed the road in front of my car very quickly. I sure wish I had a camera phone back then.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. david engel

    Not a shortage of humans though....

    March 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. What You Need To Know: most important

    Massacre of animals and environment happens on global scale: sacred and very needed by life on Earth trees are
    being massacred by human predator. Shrinking habitat leads to extinction of the animals. Gold mining, illegal tree cutting, illegal ranching in Amazon already destroyed a lot of sacred trees. I liked "AMAZON with Bruce Perry." Most vicious predator (human) must learn to stop destroying its own environment. Most vicious predator must stop unbounded (exponential) reproduction: it leaves no space for healthy environment for most vicious predator and leaves no space for animals. CONSUMPTION is not "cool" anymore. Hint: coexistence of human and environment (nature and animals).
    If you cannot farm it – you cannot kill it.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sasquatch

    I saw a cougar just yesterday and it had Ohio plates

    March 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Damien

    HA HA yes lets laugh it up, we are driving animals to extinction. Lets all make lame cougar jokes.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TD7777

    I am certain that with the astronomical human population growth on this planet currently and much "creepier" experiments happening daily, this generation does not treat anything with respect, including cougars. I used to be worried about endangered species and destruction of the rain forest etc., because I am a big fan of nature, now I am worried if the planet will continue to exist.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cougars in PA

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. My former neighbor's daughter saw one when she was hiking the mountains here in eastern PA.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FedUpWithScience

    If these things are extinct, then why did I see one run in front of my car last night when I was driving home?

    March 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ed

    Next time you hear the oft repeated myth about how humans need to hunt animals to "manage" their populations just remember the Eastern Cougar. Another species hunted to extinction for "sport" by a group of men compensating for their inadequacies and trying to prove their manhood. The best way to manage wildlife is to leave it alone and let nature take its course.

    March 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Zeus

    i like teh cougars

    March 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
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