"Eastern Cougar Is Declared Extinct, With an Asterisk"

"Seven decades after the last reported sighting of the eastern cougar, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service declared it extinct Wednesday and recommended that it be removed from the nation's endangered species list.

There's one wrinkle, though: it may not be extinct, exactly.

Scientists are moving toward the conclusion that the eastern cougar was erroneously classified as a separate subspecies in the first place. As a result of a genetic study conducted in 2000, most biologists now believe there is no real difference between the western and eastern branches of the cougar family.

Either way, the 'eastern' cougar as such is no longer with us. Any recent sightings in the cougar's historic range, which stretched from eastern Ontario and Michigan eastward to Maine and southward to Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri, were actually sightings of its relatives, the Fish and Wildlife Service said."

Felicity Barringer reports for the New York Times March 2, 2011.


"Federal Researchers Declare Eastern Cougar Extinct" (AP)

Other Eastern Cougar Stories (Knight Science Journalism Tracker)

Source: NY Times, 03/03/2011