Skip to comments.Comments sought on eastern cougar
Posted on 02/28/2007 2:46:30 PM PST by girlangler
Comments sought on eastern cougar
Catamount, puma, painter, panther, mountain lion are just some of the names given to a large but elusive will-o-the-wisp cat that once haunted . . . or perhaps still haunts . . . the forests of the eastern United States and Canada.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning a review of scientific and commercial information to determine the status of the endangered eastern cougar, the first review the Service has done since publishing a recovery plan in 1982. The Service placed the eastern cougar on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1973.
"We will compile and evaluate scientific evidence to help us
understand the status of the eastern cougar and to determine what future
actions the Service should take, said Martin Miller, chief of endangered
species for the Services Northeast Region.
As part of the review, the Service is seeking information on the status of the eastern cougar in the 21 states -- from Maine to South Carolina and westward from Michigan to Tennessee -- where the Endangered Species Act protects it. Lacking definitive evidence of the species existence, the Service has presumed the eastern cougar to be extinct. It is improbable that a small cougar population persisted in the eastern states for over a century. Most of the confirmed cougar records since 1950 (animals killed, good quality photos/videos, genetic evidence) are known to be escapes of captive origin. There may be thousands of captive cougars in the eastern United States.
An important part of the Services review will be to compile the best available scientific evidence and objectively assess whether the eastern cougar is truly extinct, said Mark McCollough, endangered species biologist in the Services Northeast Region. McCollough and other Service staff will prepare the status review.
Anyone wishing to submit information regarding the eastern cougar may do so by writing to:
Eastern Cougar Northeast Regional Office U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 300 Westgate Center Drive Hadley, MA 01035
or by email to EasternCougar@fws.gov Information must be received by March 30, 2007, for the status review, although the Service will continue to accept new information about eastern cougars at any time.
The Service announced the eastern cougar status review in the Federal Register on Jan. 29. To assist with the review, the Service contacted state fish and wildlife agencies in states and Canadian provinces where the cougar is thought to have lived and requested information related to cougar status, protection, threats, laws about captivity, and habitats where cougars could persist.
The Endangered Species Act requires a review every five years of all protected species. However, limited resources and higher priorities have postponed the review for the Eastern cougar until now.
For additional information on the eastern cougar, see http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ECougar Information on the Services endangered species program may be found at http://www.fws.gov/endangered
The eastern cougar was one of the first wildlife casualties of European
settlement. It ranged throughout the East as a top predator in an
ecosystem that supported abundant white-tailed deer, woodland bison and the
eastern elk. Early settlers quickly exterminated the bison and elk and
nearly eliminated the deer, the primary prey of cougars. Furthermore, they
systematically shot, trapped and poisoned cougars because the big cats
competed with settlers for large game animals, and because they
occasionally killed livestock.
Agriculture, settlements and cities transformed the eastern forest. By 1846, naturalist John James Audubon wrote, the animal, which has excited so much terror in the minds of the ignorant and timid, has been nearly exterminated in all our Atlantic states, and we do not recollect a single well authenticated instance where any hunters life fell sacrifice to a Cougar hunt.
Cougar reports had begun fading by 1891 when Frederick True wrote that the big cats had been eradicated from nearly all eastern states and as far west as Indiana and it is improbable that even stragglers could be found at the present day.
But did eastern cougars go extinct? Reports of this ghost cat continued through the 20th century. Florida panthers, a cougar population protected as an endangered subspecies, are the focus of a Service recovery effort. Rumors abound that small populations of cougars may have persisted in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, the Adirondacks, Maine or eastern Canada.
The eastern cougar subspecies Puma concolor couguar was described in 1946 on scant evidence from measurements taken from museum specimens of just eight cougar skulls from three Mid-Atlantic States. The historical range of the eastern cougar was a guess, but stands to this day. Based on this evidence, the eastern cougar was one of the first species added to the federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife.
Cougar enthusiasts believe the big cat has returned in the East or never was completely eradicated. Verified cougar reports include a road-killed kitten in Kentucky in 1997, a cougar killed and another captured in West Virginia in 1976, scat from Massachusetts in 1997, and others. Videos, photos and other evidence of cougars exist. The public, including wildlife biologists, have reported thousands of unverified sightings.
Wildlife biologists believe the cats sighted could be cougars once held as pets and then released, or they could be transient animals from the West or Canada. It is improbable that a remnant, reproducing population of eastern cougars persisted for the last 100 years. However, the status review will examine each of these possibilities.
The validity of the eastern cougar as a subspecies is in question. Recent research by Melanie Culver, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland indicates that the eastern cougar is not genetically unique and suggests that all North American cougars could be categorized as a single subspecies. These new analyses will be considered in the Services status review.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
The cougar will reestablish some of its former Eastern range. Certainly coyotes are everywhere on the East Coast now.
The majestic cougar will once again roam the Appalachians and (like its cousins out West) eat the occasional jogger.
My aunt (now deceased) told me stories about hearing them in a mining camp in Virginia in the 1930s.
I live in an isolated area not too far from the Smokies, and am surrounded by undeveloped public land, with lots of deer.
I heard a big cat one day, but assume it was a bobcat. There are plenty of those around.
Also, I know cougars are moving into Oklahoma from Colorado, New Mexico, in fact the legislature there last year created the law to enable the state wildlife agency to create a hunting season in the future if needed.
There's no doubt cougars can establish new ranges in this area. Tennessee, particulary, has a lot of public land, and potential habitat for them.
I know someone who along with several neighbors had to chase a cougar out of his garage in north Alabama once. He's an avid hunter and knows what they look like. They reported it, but never heard back on it. Could've been a former pet.
If we could only get our mountain Lions in Texas to develop a taste for Feral Hogs."
LOL. Be nice if they could get a few cougars in the Smokies to do the same. Feral hogs there are destroying native fauna. The Park Service has sharpshooters come in and take as many as they can out from time to time. But, they are expanding all across the Cumberland Plateau.
Actually there have been several cougar sightings here in Tennessee, but wildlife officials think they are released cats. Most of these sightings are made by hunters, one on tndeer.com actually caught one on a trail cam. Back in the 1990s a state biologist positively identified a cougar track on the Alabama/Tennessee border.
Heck, we even have non-native armadillos in west Tennessee now.
The state of Colorado thru the wildlife dept closed off a huge area west of Montrose for five years...No lion Hunting.
They called it a study area to see how large the population of mountain lions would grow with no hunting.
Many local guides are going five years without clients in these areas as well as the communities who might have provided lodging, meals, gas, etc.
I have not heard the report on the elk, deer, etc. populations.
Hmmm. I think it is interesting the USFWS is receiving comments now on cougars in the eastern U.S., since they have basically denied they exist here for several decades.
It is job security for some and eco-pc-ism for the nuts.
Like the introduction and 'management' of Canadian wolves and Canadian lynx ( remember the fake pelt ? ) or the Mexican wolves or...
The USFWS and their eco-friends are driving these artifically created agendas.
I remember a report of a mountain lion sighting along the Erie Canal some years ago.
They love to introduce predators legally and extra-legally. Many admit it too.
You have a point. I think I told you once about Fred Bonner, at one time the editor of "Carolina Adventure" magazine.
He and I used to have some interesting conversations about the red wolf, introduced into the Smoky Mountains and eastern N.C. At one time he sent me reams of info supporting the thesis that the "red" wolves were actually hybrids, not true wolves at all. He caused the USFWS all kinds of trouble with his editorials about this subject.
I like Fred, haven't talked to him in years, though.
It is interesting the USFWS wants comments on a specie they contend doesn't exist here. This is one to watch I think.
Yes, I do remember the fake lynx pelt. And I also remember several years ago "off the record contacts" within the USFWS alerting state wildlife biologists (who were my contacts when I was editor of an outdoor magazine, and were also off the record)alerting the public of the extreme radicals within the USFWS, who wanted to commit fish hatcheries to propagation of endangered species, instead of fullfilling their congressional mandated mission to create fisheries destroyed by dams, etc.
I wrote editorials about that, and actually received a letter to the editor from former USFWS Director Jamie R. Clark (now deceased, a Clinton appointee).
This non existing cougar in the eastern U.S., the one the feds wants comments on, is interesting.
About eight years ago the security cameras at AOL headquarters in suburban Reston, Virginia took videos of a cougar sauntering across the parking lot. Stills from the videos appeared in the Washington Compost.
On the other side of the Potomac, in Montgomery County, Maryland, a cougar can occasionally be heard screaming in Patuxent River State Park. The sound of a cougar is very distinctive and can't easily be mistaken for anything else.
Just a few months ago I came across a very young deer dying in state parkland. There were opposing jaw/tooth marks on either side of her hips. I cannot imagine any coyote having jaws that size but can't definitely identify the bite marks as coming from a large cat as I don't know by sight the difference between a feline and canid array of teeth.
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