U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declares eastern cougar extinct

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(MEDIA GENERAL) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday, June 16, 2015 it has declared the eastern cougar extinct and will push for its removal from U.S. Endangered Special Act protections.

According to the FWS’ Mark McCollough, the eastern cougar often was referred to as the “ghost cat,” because no one ever saw it. Now, they believe they know why: they believe the big cat has been extinct since the 1930s.

The FWS says the last known eastern cougars were spotted in the 1930s, and both were killed. One was killed by a hunter in Maine in 1938. Before that, one was found dead in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1932.

The FWS cites multiple reasons for why the eastern cougar died off, namely they were over-hunted and lost their territory. The eastern cougar population first started to drop in the 19th century, when Europeans arrived and killed the cats to protect their livestock. Heavy deforestation also limited the eastern cougar’s territory and drove off the cat’s main prey: white-tailed deer.

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