15 Mar

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Declares Eastern Cougar Extinct

Panthera

Recently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared the Eastern Cougar (Puma concolor couguar), a subspecies of the Cougar (Puma concolor), as officially extinct. The Eastern Cougar had been listed as an endangered species since 1973, but has been believed by much of the scientific community to have been extinct since the 1930s. Although there have been supposed recent sightings of the Eastern Cougar in its historical range, it is believed that these sightings were, in fact, of other Cougar subspecies, including South American subspecies. In response to the USFWS’ announcement, Panthera’s cougar expert and Executive Director of Jaguar Programs, Dr. Howard Quigley, released the following statement:

“We should all lament the declaration by the USFWS that the Eastern Cougar is now gone. At some point, after the full genetic analyses are performed, we might know better how different the Eastern Cougar was. For now, we know that the ecological impact is likely to have been substantial, along with other alterations of the ecology of the eastern habitats of the U.S. that were brought on by humans. But, the good news is that cougars are very resilient, and they are making a comeback in the Midwest. With proper management and public outreach, re-colonization of the East is not out of the realm of possibilities.”

In partnership with Craighead Beringia South, Dr. Quigley currently leads the Teton Cougar Project through which Panthera is working to collar and monitor cougars in the region north of Jackson, Wyoming to develop a greater understanding of the cougar’s movements and populations, and their relationships with prey and other large predators. Dr. Quigley also leads Panthera’s California Cougar Project, which aims to gather ecological data on cougar habitats and corridors, and help mitigate human-cougar conflicts in California - the only state where hunting of the species is illegal.

More information on the Eastern Cougar can be found at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ECougar/ and http://www.fws.gov/nc-es/mammal/cougar.html