Eastern cougar extinct, feds say

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.

Eastern cougar. Photo by Larry Master.
Cougar photo by Larry Master.

“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.

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Phil says

    Ike, I was fixing the caption when I got your comment. The cat in the photo presumably is a western cougar. My guess is that it was taken at a zoo, but I haven’t spoken to the photographer about its origin.

  2. Paul says

    I saw this recently about how close most land in the Adirondacks is to a road:


    I think that some of the folks that have seen cougars in the area know what they are talking about. But I agree that the cats that have been seen are outliers at best.

    Given how close we are in the woods to roads if we had any kind of real cougar population there would be signs to see everywhere. It just isn’t there.

    This is one animal that I do not really want to live around. I did in Colorado and even there where they are scarce it is scary.

  3. Steve says

    I have to assume by this that The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t care or notice what happens in Canada.
    The Eastern Cougar with a dark tawny to black coat has been seen many times in the region between Rouyn Noranda Quebec, Hearst and Kirkland Lake Ontario to Wawa, Sault St. Marie and Sudbury Ontario.
    Quick change of coat color just because they live in the East not West? I don’t think so…


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