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Cat Obituary. Farewell Eastern Cougar

 

Eastern cougar

Cat Obituary. Farewell Eastern Cougar

The Eastern Cougar, a subspecies of one of North America’s largest cats, was declared extinct by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)  on March 2, 2011,  after  a very  long and protracted review process. The USFWS gathered information on the elusive cat subspecies from both scientists and government authorities in the 21 states where the eastern cougar, also known as the eastern puma once lived.  The private Eastern Cougar Foundation spent a decade looking for evidence and  after finding none, changed its name to the Cougar Rewilding Foundation.

The historic distribution of the cougar was across lower Canada in the north, all the way to Patagonia, South America. The  highly adaptable big cat was the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. It could be found in tidal marshes, deserts, mountainous terrain and deciduous, coniferous and tropical forests. But the expanding human population reduced their distribution and they did not adapt well to areas with conflicting land uses.

The eastern cougar once roamed from Maine to South Carolina and as far west as Michigan and Tennessee. They were agile for such a big cat.  The cougars had long slender bodies and small heads with short rounded ears.  They sported a beautiful  tawny coat, usually  brownish red or grayish brown, that would be more tan in the summer months and more gray in the winter. Their muzzle, chin, and underbelly were a beautiful creamy white.  They had a distinctive black tip on their tails and black coloring behind the ears, and at the base of their whiskers.

The eastern cougar was a solitary and territorial hunter whose  job was to thin the deer herd through direct predation. The big cat was a “natural shepherd” forcing deer to be more vigilant and stop grazing like cattle so that the forest would have a chance to regenerate. There are no other species available to take over the eastern cougar’s position as a top-level predator. This leaves behind ecological consequences, including a population explosion of white -tailed deer and the Eastern forests in declining health.

The USFWS decision to declare the eastern cougar extinct does not affect the current status of the Florida Panther, another wild cat subspecies that is endangered.  The Florida panther once roamed throughout the southeastern United States but now exists in less than 5% of its historic range. There are only an estimated 120-160 cats remaining in southwestern Florida.

Preparations are being made to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list, since extinct animals are not eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The eastern cougar was considered a distinct subspecies, although it is now believed they had the same genetics as their western relatives.   It is highly unlikely that there will be any attempt to reintroduce cougars to the eastern states, the required habitat is just not available .

The announcement of the extinction was made quietly and  the cougar was put to rest without a ceremony. And that is fitting I suppose for a cat so elusive it was given the nickname “ghost cat”.  Researchers believe the subspecies has  been extinct since the 1930’s and was listed as an endangered species in 1973.

Even though the extinction conclusion was not  unexpected, the official declaration of extinction,  the acknowledgment that the big cat is gone forever still hurts.

 

Eatern Cougar Extinct Getty file

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  • SherriH

    I am re-reading this now and am reminded how unsettling it is that we are losing — or close to losing — so many fantastic wild cats. I read somewhere that there are more tigers living in captivity in the U.S. than there are tigers left in the wild. Tigers aren’t pets! They don’t belong in basements! The loss of the Eastern Cougar might not seem important to some — but consider the influx of white-tailed deer. They eat everything they can find, destroying woodlands, leading to greater erosion. The cougar was their natural enemy. No enemies – no need to worry about where to graze. We are all so much more intertwined than we realize! Thanks, Joanne and Gracey, for sharing this, and CONGRATULATIONS on the much-deserved prize from the Petties!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kim.new1 Kim New

    What is the matter with these cruel people to make a beautiful animal go extinct. shame on you

  • http://www.facebook.com/arkana666 Richard Keep

    How very sad….. I just came upon this & until now didn’t realise their plight. What a great loss to our world…

  • mari

    sad we humans can not let anything so beautifull live….

  • mari

    sad we humans can not let anything so beautifull live….

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  • http://www.facebook.com/WILMA.J.BRICKNER Wilma Brickner-Sanchez

    I am from Ohio family from pa., grandma told me how when she was little seeing these cats, same with my mother, this is sad that they are no more..this is terrible that my grandma is 90 and my mother is 60 and in that short of time they are all gone, what animal is next, we need to leave the country alone..

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  • Nola

    This is such a horrid tragedy

    • http://conservationcubclub.com/ Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger

      Super sad. Thank you for reading Nola.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leslie.a.wyatt Leslie Ann Wyatt

    :’-(
    That’s all I can say…

    • http://conservationcubclub.com/ Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger

      It is heartbreaking. Thank you for reading Leslie Ann.

  • Lynn

    There are no words to describe the sadness … Losing such a beautiful creature due to man is beyond heartbreaking … I hope & pray that mankind has learned a valuable lesson & will do everything humanly possible to prevent this tragedy from happening to the another of God’s fragile creatures that seem to be at the mercy of mankind … Living in Florida, I truly hope their are more precautions taken to protect the Florida panther & their environment

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shanda-Mills-Carmine/1285624243 Shanda Mills Carmine

    This breaks my heart. The cougar has always held a very special place in my life. It’s my spirit guide. My first (and largest) tattoo is of a cougar (though I tend to call them mountain lions). I read this and started crying. It’s only a matter of time until the ones left in FL are gone as well unless there are some serious changes made…sad, sad day….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shanda-Mills-Carmine/1285624243 Shanda Mills Carmine

    This breaks my heart. The cougar has always held a very special place in my life. It’s my spirit guide. My first (and largest) tattoo is of a cougar (though I tend to call them mountain lions). I read this and started crying. It’s only a matter of time until the ones left in FL are gone as well unless there are some serious changes made…sad, sad day….

  • Mebop

    This is to Sad for words. When will people learn that they aren’t the only ones that deserve to inhabit this place we call earth. We are suppose to look after God’s creatures not abolish them. We are here to take care of this earth and it’s creatures. But some how man thinks they are the only ones who should be here. Where do we get off trying to play God with everything. Man will pay for their self serving ways. :(

  • Indigo1144

    “Give me a song, a song for a sadness too vast for my heart, for a rage too wild for my throat.” – from a poem called Bestiary by Joanna Macy (http://www.rowecenter.org/centerpost/2008-spring/JoannaMacy.htm). Cougars have always been very dear to my heart. This news is “a sadness too vast for my heart.”

  • Magwhisk

    Oh Gracey, a sad day indeed!!!

  • Bobski

    another truly truly sad day for our poor abused planet and her beloved inhabitants, will we ever learn ….I doubt it very much but as long as people are prepared to stand up and say “this must stop” and fight to preserve the beautiful creatures we have left ……there is hope …..for all humankind …..I’d like to apologise for this atrocity !!

    • Anonymous

      I worry too that we as a society will not step up to save the big cats. Lions and tigers are vanishing before our eyes. If we will not step up and take action to save the tigers and lions, some of the most popular animals on our earth, what will we save?

  • Laura D.

    This is terribly sad news. I am amazed that there aren’t even any in captivity, but I guess if this happened in the 1930’s, as the article suggests, it probably hadn’t occurred to anyone yet that they needed to capture some. I hope the Florida panther fares better.

    • Anonymous

      I hope so too Laura.

  • Kmnovelli

    This is extremely sad and depressing. Such a beautiful creature which has fallen prey to human encroachment and, more than likely, poaching. What a disappointing comment on our race; that we eradicate so many of our co-earthly inhabitants out of ignorance, greed and human overpopulation. Will we NEVER learn? I shall say a prayer for this gorgeous animal and her kind. And an additional prayer for those species who will, undoubtedly, follow at the hands of human arrogance and stupidity.

  • Sgidget101

    my heart is heavy over this news. im a big cat lover and even though they havent been seen in a while, there was always hope. a dream has died today…

    • Anonymous

      It really hurts when all hope is lost and the extinction becomes official.