The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the eastern cougar subspecies, scientifically known as Puma concolor cougar, from the endangered species list and officially declared it extinct in the U.S. on January 22. The eastern cougar, also referred to as eastern puma, had not been seen for 80 years.
This animal had been seen roaming around in the forests, mountains, and grasslands east of Mississippi before. However, it has not been sighted in the last eight decades. It is theorized that the last eastern cougar was shot by hunters in Maine in 1938.
The status of the eastern cougar was reviewed in 2011. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that there was no evidence, such as photos and DNA, of the existence of this subspecies, so they declared it extinct, and its delisting from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife endangered species will be officially effective on February 22, according to Newsweek.
These big cats are described as mysterious. They often travel alone, usually at night. Although they were difficult to find they are still susceptible to human hunting. It is thought that hunting and trapping have triggered the extinction of the eastern cougar.
The big cats were perceived as a threat to people, livestock, and pets. They are often blamed for annihilating livestock. As a result, people hunted and killed them as pest control, particularly in the 1700s and 1800s. They were also trapped and killed for their fur in the 1800s.
— BotanistAdventures (@BotanicsMan) January 27, 2018
However, experts say that the eastern cougars play a role in the ecosystem. Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that large carnivores such as cougars could keep wild food web healthy. He further said that these cougars would curb deer overpopulation and tick-borne diseases that threaten human health.
This means that they could reduce the population of ticks by hunting and killing deer. Additionally, they could also save lives by lessening deer-car collisions. It is projected that if these cougars were reintroduced in the U.S, deer-car collisions could be reduced by 22 percent. This could save 115 lives and prevent more than 21,000 accidents, according to IFL Science.