The eastern cougar, also known as the eastern puma, could initially be found in 21 states across the US, and the FWS consulted with authorities and scientists in each and every one of them.
The review process the Service had to complete was long and complex, but at the end it did not hold any good surprises. The consensus among specialists is that the large cat has really gone extinct.
Although sightings of cougars may be subsequently reported, the FWS has ensured that none of those animals are part of this particular subspecies. Other species of pumas still endure in the US.
“We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar,” explains the chief of the endangered species division at the FWS northern region, Martin Miller.
“However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar,” the expert goes on to say.
He adds that most cougar sightings in the former range of the eastern pumas are of western wild animals that migrated east, or of South American cougars, that moved north. The native species is gone.
The lead FWS eastern puma expert, Mark McCollough, believes that the animals disappeared as early as the 1930s, and that only a handful of individuals survived beyond that time.
Primarily, these predators feasted on white-tailed deer and eastern elk, the latter of which disappeared as far back as 1880. Smaller animals could also be often found on the menu, LiveScience reports.
FWS experts are currently working on a proposal to remove the former subspecies from the endangered species list. The animals could grow to be 8 feet (2.4 meters) long and had an average weight of around 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms).
The Service draws attention to the fact that the Flordia panther, another subspecies of North American large cat, is still protected, and is listed as critically endangered. It is estimated that only between 120 and 160 individuals of this subspecies endure in southwest Florida today.