Official extinction has been declared on the Eastern Cougar. This beautiful cat, that once roamed from the Carolinas north into Canada and west to the Great Plains, has been endangered since 1973, but experts say it was probably extinct since the 1930s.
One of the last images of the Eastern Cougar
Even though it has been endangered for so long, the cougar was never really protected from hunting. Because of this and the sparse availability of prey, the white-tailed deer, the species has never recovered. A loss of its natural habitat has also been the cougar’s demise. This 100-pound cougar is also known to many as catamount, ghost cat, mountain cat, mountain lion, panther, or puma. It is different from other cats in North America because of its longer tail and its tawny color.
There have been 108 sightings of this large cat since the 1930s, but none of the animals was proven to be the Eastern Cougar. The sightings were of either the western cougar or black panthers. Western cougars are residents of Florida and the West, and their color is yellowish or gray. Black panthers are not indigenous to North America but were probably bazaar house pets that people let loose. Therefore, it has been 70 years since the last sighting of this species. The Fish and Wildlife Service began to seriously look into the cougar’s situation in 2007. They looked at many things including videos from thousands of trail cameras, road kill reports, and other information. It was after this study, on March 2, 2011, that the eastern cougar was finally declared extinct.
Many people are hoping that the Western cougar will migrate into the eastern part of North America and take over the eastern cougar’s territory. Patrick McMillan, a professor at Clemson University believes in this, too, saying, “I think it is inevitable that we will have cougars as a resident species in the Carolinas.”