U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concludes eastern cougar extinct

Although the eastern cougar has been on the endangered species list
since 1973, its existence has long been questioned. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (Service) conducted a formal review of the available
information and, in a report issued today, concludes the eastern cougar is
extinct and recommends the subspecies be removed from the endangered
species list.

“We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within
the historical range of the eastern cougar,” said the Service’s Northeast
Region Chief of Endangered Species Martin Miller. “However, we believe
those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no
information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.”

Reports of cougars observed in the wild examined during the review
process described cougars of other subspecies, often South American
subspecies, that had been held in captivity and had escaped or been
released to the wild, as well as wild cougars of the western United States
subspecies that had migrated eastward to the Midwest.

During the review, the Service received 573 responses to a request
for scientific information about the possible existence of the eastern
cougar subspecies; conducted an extensive review of U.S. and Canadian
scientific literature; and requested information from the 21 States within
the historical range of the subspecies. No States expressed a belief in the
existence of an eastern cougar population. According to Dr. Mark
McCollough, the Service’s lead scientist for the eastern cougar, the
subspecies of eastern cougar has likely been extinct since the 1930s.

The Service initiated the review as part of its obligations under the
Endangered Species Act. The Service will prepare a proposal to remove the
eastern cougar from the endangered species list, since extinct animals are
not eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal
will be made available for public comment.

The Service's decision to declare the eastern cougar extinct does not
affect the status of the Florida panther, another wild cat subspecies
listed as endangered. Though the Florida panther once ranged throughout the
Southeast, it now exists in less than five percent of its historic habitat
and in only one breeding population of 120 to 160 animals in southwestern
Florida.

Additional information about eastern cougars, including frequently
asked questions and cougar sightings, is at:
http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ecougar. Find information about endangered
species at http://www.fws.gov/endangered.

The Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish,
wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the
American people. We are both a leader and a trusted partner in fish and
wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of
lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to
public service. For more information about our work and the people who make
it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov.
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