The Eastern Puma, also called the cougar, mountain lion, panther and catamount, has been declared officially extinct, according to a federal agency.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Eastern puma, which was last sighted 80 years ago, extinct, lifting all protection programs for the animal. The Eastern Puma has now been removed from the list of endangered species for the last time.
The animal roamed areas in Michigan, New England, Southern Ontario, the Carolinas, and Tennessee.
However, the last one was seen alive in 1938, which means that no single cougar has been sighted for decades. The declaration has been done for formality since many believed that the species has been extinct long before.
However, it was necessary to announce it just now because a species can be listed as endangered only if it’s believed to still exist.
US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement:
“Data from researchers, 21 states and Canadian provinces across the subspecies’ former eastern North American range indicate the eastern cougar likely disappeared forever at least 70 years ago.”
Some sightings of cougars or their tracks were still reported in parts of the Eastern United States, over the past decades. However, upon examination of the tracks, they were actually other animals like coyotes, bobcats, black bears or even dogs.
The cougar or puma was once the most extensively dispersed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. However, a rapid decline in the population occurred since the European settlement has started.
The decline was because of trapping, hunting, and poisoning.
In addition, the loss of their natural habitat as a result of urbanization, and the hunting of whitetail deer, their primary source of food, has also contributed to their peril.
“Accounts suggest that most eastern cougars disappeared in the 1800s, killed out of fear for
human and livestock safety and were victims of massive deforestation and overharvesting of
white-tailed deer, the cougar’s primary prey.”
On the other hand, the removal of the eastern cougar does not affect the status of the Florida panther, another cougar subspecies, the agency said.