Is the eastern cougar really extinct?
One interesting aspect of cryptozoology is animals that are known to have existed, but are now thought to be extinct. In some cases, such as the coelacanth, the animal is discovered alive and well, even after having been thought extinct for millions of years. In other cases, such as the thylacine (or tasmanian tiger), and animal is thought to be extinct, even though unconfirmed sightings continue. Scientists tend to give these sightings more credence than Bigfoot sightings, for obvious reasons. It’s easier to believe that some remnants of a known species still exist than to admit that there might still be a population of large apes that have remained undetected. A big part of cryptozoological lore is that of big cats being seen where there shouldn’t be big cats. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has done a lot of in-depth research into big cats, in such books as Mysterious America. Most of these “phantom panther” sightings have been attributed to the eastern cougar, bobcats, and other large felines, and the excuse for them being around is usually the stereotypical “escaped circus animal” explanation. But now, the Associated Press is reporting that the eastern cougar is now being officially declared extinct.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded there are no longer any wild populations of mountain lions in the eastern United States. Researchers believe the subspecies has probably been extinct since the 1930s.
Wednesday’s declaration paves the way for the eastern cougar to be removed from the endangered species list.
There have been numerous sightings of mountain lions from Maine to South Carolina. But the wildlife service contends those cougars were either escaped or released captives, or came from the West or from South America.
The agency’s decision to declare the eastern cougar extinct does not affect the status of the Florida panther, another endangered wildcat.
The fact that the cougar is being declared extinct does not mean that there are no longer any of these animals around. It just means that we don’t have any proof that they are still around. And I for one think they should remain on the endangered species list, just to be safe. But big cat sightings have been going on for years, and I won’t be surprised if people keep on reporting sightings of cougars in the United States.