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. Double D

    I bet the guy in the picture is extinct too...why didn't the article mention that?

    March 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mark

    It is now safer for the rednecks to look for bigfoot with one less big cat out there.

    March 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. biglips

    Eradicate the (fa)gs from this country. .

    March 2, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. frs

    Geat. Mankind does it again. Why are we so stupid sometimes?

    March 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ebradst

    Guys, the biologist didn't kill the cougar in the picture. Nowhere in the article or in the caption does it say that Bruce Wright killed it. Of course, CNN didn't help things by not making it clear, but here's a link. It was trapped by a Canadian lady in Maine.


    March 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Evan

    Im glad its dead somewhat, people don't realize how dangerous these animals are. Where I live they've become like pests, as many as rats! Its hard to fight something when the law says "No killing cougars" yet they attack people all the time here, along with needed animals (Farm land etc.).

    The Cougar unlike movies doesn't really let out a roar, but a blood curdling scream that sounds like a woman being murdered. Its reeaallyy creepy...

    Im not for the extinction of the race, but at least lets bring the population down of Western Cougars.

    March 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Umm...how can one confuse a white-tailed deer, yellow lab, and eastern mountain cougar???

    March 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Philip

    Mountain lions are getting scarce in the Rocky Mountains as well. It's been 3 years since I had one join me for dinner while camping. I suspect that the cougar's (mtn. lions) natural prey has been altered. Deer and Elk here in Colorado are suffering from mad-cow disease. It's so bad, several years ago the Federal Gov. made it illegal for Colorado's Elk ranches to export meat accross the state line.

    March 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JIM


    March 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Novembereign

    They havent been to the bar in my town on a Friday night. Thats where all the cougars hang out.

    March 2, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. M.K.

    another man eater that we do not have to worry about in the U.S.A. is good news. Now, if we coiuld just get rid of the alligators, sharks, pit bulls, and all the rest of the things that can and do kill and eat humans the country would be better off, If someone wants to see wild animals go to the zoo.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sarah

    Poor north eastern Cougers! Too bad there's SOOOOOO much more goin on in this crazy planet to worry about! Like earth quakes, tornados, war, terrorism, removal of don't ask, don't tell in the Army, navy, ect...sooooo much more goin on! But instead let's NOT worry about the entire fricken world fallin to pieces! Let's worry about the north eastern couger...never mind that our planet & every man, woman & child will be extinct in about 80 yrs give or take a few....let's invest in underground shelters...

    March 2, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Teresa

    Does anyone find it strange that the last one seen was trapped and mounted?

    March 2, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos


      March 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      It's not that strange considering it was in 1938

      March 2, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • prplkat

      Not strange, but very sad

      March 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      There have been reports of cougars in northern Georgia in the 1950's and 60's, but I don't recall any since. One black cougar was sighted within several miles of downtown Atlanta.

      March 3, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • subvana13

      Western Cougars 1
      Eastern Cougars 0...

      March 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • brianne saville

      exactly teresa, I was just thinking the same thing. Some biologist! Why not tag him & let him/her go? Or at least put in a zoo, but 2 just kill it & stuff it like a trophy-yikes!

      March 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikmawwoman

      How come this report doesn't say anything about the bounty placed on Eastern Cougars from the US government? And you wonder why the subspecies is extinct? Americans need to learn their history, or else your doomed to repeat it.

      April 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Muggsy3

    such a tragedy .. yet another unique creature of GOD wiped out by the most prolific unrestrained selfish self-centered ego-bloated creature, MAN.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolz

      god created man in his own image, so he must hate cougars...

      March 3, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Tyler Durden The Narrator

      You mean unique creature of ZEUS

      zeus will smite you down for your blasphemy, you will spend eternity in the pits of tartarus!

      March 3, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Tyhouston

      99.9 percent of all species on earth have become extinct long before man...and even longer before god.

      March 3, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mark

    My father and I saw a cougar in 1975 outside of Florence, SC. We were installing a burglar/fire alarm at Cale Yarborough's (Nascar Driver) new house he was building at the time. It took a couple of leaps as it crossed the road directly in front of us and headed into a corn field I don't know what subspecies it was but it definitely, without a doubt was a cougar. My father also saw another (maybe the same one) around 1973 on his to work early in the morning. Again outside of Florence but about 40 miles from the other sighting.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnOBX

      Are you sure it wasn't a white-tailed deer 🙂
      Seriously, people confuse a deer with a cougar?
      Glad you got a chance to see one. It would be nice if they'd defied the odds somehow.

      March 3, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • stu

      I have heard of people seeing a cougar on the lower Delmarva pennensula while driving up US 17. That sounds like a location that they may have survived in for a while. those reports were from about 30 years ago.

      March 3, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • SoS

      People see cougars all the time, which the article pretty much says. They just don't see this sub-species any more.

      March 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
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