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Monday, March 7, 2011

Eastern cougar finally declared extinct... at least 80 years after it was last seen


A taxidermy of the eastern cougar, said to have been the last cougar killed in Pennsylvania in 1874 by Thomas Anson. U.S. officials yesterday declared the animal to have been extinct since at least the 1930s

The eastern cougar, a large and elusive tawny wild cat that once prowled the wilderness in 21 U.S. states, is now officially extinct.

Experts had for decades questioned whether the cougar still existed.
But researchers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday finally conceded that the animal, which has been on the endangered species list since 1973, is likely to have been extinct since the 1930s.

Martin Miller, a spokesman for FWS, said: 'We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.'

The federal agency said individual sightings of cougars in the wild in recent years actually matched other subspecies, including South American cats that had either escaped from captivity or were released to the wilderness as well as wild cougars from Western states that had migrated east.

The eastern cougar also is known as a puma, panther, catamount, painter or mountain lion depending upon its habitat, according to the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to raising public awareness of eastern cougars.

Since the charity's inception in 1998, years of field work to try to verify eastern cougar sightings have failed to produce a single confirmation, the group said on its website.

Declaring the eastern cougar extinct does not affect the endangered status of other wild cat subspecies, including the Florida panther (pictured)

Now, FWS is readying a proposal to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list, since extinct animals are not eligible for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The move does not affect the endangered status of other wild cat subspecies, including the Florida panther.

That panther now exists in less than 5 per cent of its historic habitat throughout the south-east U.S.

It currently has only one breeding population of 120 to 160 animals in south-western Florida, the FWS said.

source: dailymail


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