It’s official: the eastern cougar is extinct. And what about all those sightings of cougars in the Adirondacks and elsewhere over the years? If they were cougars, they were probably released or escaped pets.
That’s the word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which issued a report today calling for the removal of the eastern cougar from the federal endangered-species list.
“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. “However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.”
In some cases, the service says, cougars spotted in the East may have been wild cougars—of a different subspecies—that migrated from the West.
Click here to read the service’s news release and find more information about the eastern cougar.
The existence of cougars in the Adirondacks has been a hotly debated subject for years. The Wild Center has created a website devoted to the debate, and 70 percent of those who took the site’s online poll believe cougars do live in the region. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, however, insists that any cougars seen in the Park are former pets.
Click here to go to the Wild Center website.
A story on wildlife corridors in the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer raises the possibility that cougars might return to the Adirondacks on their own. If they do–and if the Fish and Wild Service–is right, the cougars presumably will be the western subspecies.
Click here to read the Explorer story.