Eastern cougar subspecies declared extinct
The eastern cougar subspecies was officially removed from the endangered species list by US Fish & Wildlife Service, signaling the animal is officially extinct, according to Reuters.
The last eastern cougar, or eastern puma, was seen 80 years ago. US Fish & Wildlife Services declared it extinct in 2011 but only Monday officially removed it from the endangered species list. Cougars still exist in the western U.S. and rarely in the eastern U.S., but none remain of the eastern cougar subspecies.
Cougars, also known as pumas and mountain lions, are all agreed to be the same species: Puma concolor.
“We recognize that people have seen cougars in the wild in the eastern U.S.,” said Martin Miller, the Service’s Northeast Region Chief of Endangered Species in a 2015 statement from US Fish & Wildlife Services. “Those cougars are not of the eastern cougar subspecies.”
According to the document issuing the ruling from the Department of the Interior, animals receive protections if they are endangered or threatened. Animals are removed if they are believed to be “beyond”recovery, and a ruling must be made on the animals’ status.
“Our decision to remove the eastern puma from the List due to extinction is based on information and analysis showing that the eastern puma likely has been extinct for many decades, long before its listing under the Act,” the document read.
Reuters reported that Puma concolor roamed in every state east of the Mississippi River, but by 1900 had disappeared due to hunting and trapping.
The document from the Department of the Interior stated there are optimal habitats for eastern cougars in the eastern U.S. with little human disturbance. The US Fish & Wildlife Services believe “the many decades of both habitat and prey losses belie the sustained survival and reproduction of this subspecies over that time.”