Bruce Wright, New Brunswick wildlife biologist and author, with what is believed to be the last eastern cougar. The cougar was trapped by Rosarie Morin of St. Zacharie, Quebec, in Somerset County, Maine, in 1938. The mounted specimen resides in the New Brunswick Museum in St. John, New Brunswick. (Image: USFWS)
On Wednesday, March 2, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the eastern cougar is extinct.
While the cat subspecies had been on the endangered species list since 1973, its last confirmed sighting was in the 1930s and its existence had long been questioned.
So what about those occasional cat sightings on the East Coast in the decades since?
“We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar,” said Martin Miller, the service’s Northeast Region Chief of Endangered Species in a press release. “However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.”
Cougars reportedly seen in the eastern cougar's range were likely other subspecies, such as South American subspecies that escaped captivity or had been released to the wild, or wild cougars of the western United States that had migrated eastward.
The eastern cougar has likely been extinct since the 1930s, according to Dr. Mark McCollough, the service’s lead scientist for the eastern cougar.
Read the full U.S. Fish and Wildlife press release.