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Eastern Cougar To Be Removed from the Endangered Species List

Camera trap photograph of cougar

The Fish and Wildlife Service propose removing the Eastern Cougar from the Endangered Species List because they say that it is “likely" to be extinct.  Therefore they are not completely sure.  The reason why they're not completely sure is because there are still cougar sightings in the east of the United States.  There are often seen in North Carolina for instance.  The Fish and Wildlife Service would say that these odd mountain lion sightings are cats that have wandered in from the west or escaped captive cougars.  They might also be from Florida where there is a small population of cougars and finally they may be incorrect sightings.

I have noticed that way back in 2011 the Fish and Wildlife Service made a similar pronouncement that the cougar was extinct in the East.  The difference this time is that they are proposing removing the species from the Endangered Species List.  Obviously if an animal is extinct there is no point in listing it as endangered.

Most cougars disappeared in the nineteenth century as they were killed by European immigrants or due to loss of their habitat when forests were cleared.  In addition, the cougar's main prey, white-tailed deer, was hunted by humans and almost became extinct in North America.

One formally reported sighting of a male cougar in the east of the USA was in 2011 when a solitary young male travelled 2000 miles from South Dakota through Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York.  It was killed on the highway in Connecticut. A motor vehicle killed this cougar.  In Florida, as I understand it, the Florida panther is most often killed by motor vehicles as highways criss-cross the state.  Highways also present natural barriers to wild cougars.

I wonder how may people consider this to be a sad day to declare the eastern cougar extinct.  There is one question mark for me and that is whether the eastern cougar is a distinct subspecies.


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