Photo credit: Bruce Tuten/Creative Commons
For years, biologists have argued that the eastern cougar is extinct in the United States. In fact, many believed that puma concolor cougar had been extinct for more than 100 years.
Reports of sightings, however, made the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hesitant to make an official declaration. Now, after an extensive review, biologists and conservation officials agree: The eastern cougar is officially extinct.The review turned up extensive controversy; many people have claimed to have seen the cougar in the wild in the last 100 years. Many of these sightings, researchers concluded, were of individuals that had escaped captivity. The remainder are thought to be western cougars that have moved into the historical range of the eastern cougar.
Martin Miller, chief of endangered species at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained:
We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar. However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.
A breeding population of eastern cougars, he added, would have left some sign of their existence.
The last surviving wild cougar is thought to have been shot in 1938 during a period in which states issued bounties on the big cats.
Since they have disappeared, populations of white-tail deer—the eastern cougar's primary prey source—have exploded, placing pressure on other plant and animal species in the region.
Read more about extinction:
The Sixth Extinction is Underway: Are You Worried Yet?
Invasive Species May Trigger Next Mass Extinction
20% of World's Plant Species Threatened With Extinction - Yes, Human Activity is Main Cause