Cougars have been on the move in recent years.
And no, that’s not a dating reference.
Mountain lions have been expanding their range, with one walking all the way from the Dakotas to Connecticut before getting killed along the highway by a car. They’ve wandered into Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, among other places.
Could they end up here in Pennsylvania someday? Perhaps.
But they won’t be eastern cougars. That’s what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says. It believes the eastern cougar is extinct, and has been for at least 70 years.
“We recognize that people have seen cougars in the wild in the eastern U.S.,” said Martin Miller, the Service’s northeast region chief of endangered species. “Those cougars are not of the eastern cougar subspecies.”
He said those that show up in the East periodically are of three sources: wandering Florida panthers, dispersing animals from western populations, or escapees from captivity.
This week, the Service proposed to act on that belief and remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list. It went on there in 1973, decades after the last confirmed sightings. They were recorded in Maine in 1938 and New Brunswick in 1932.
The move to take the cougar off the endangered list began in 2011. The Service examined historical data and reports from the public and talked to wildlife professionals in 21 states and Canadian provinces. It found no “evidence of the existence of an eastern cougar population.”
This is a look at Bruce Wright, a New Brunswick wildlife biologist and author, with what is believed to be the last eastern puma. It was trapped by Rosarie Morin of St. Zacharie, Quebec, in Somerset County, Maine in 1938. Photo courtesy of the Northeastern Wildlife Station.