Fish And Wildlife Service: Eastern Cougar's Extinct

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The 8-foot-long cat once roamed from Canada to South America. The Eastern Cougar died out as its habitat disappeared.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Sorry to tell you the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made official what biologists have suspected for decades: The Eastern Cougar is extinct.

Mr. MARK MCCULLOUGH (Endangered Species Biologist, Fish and Wildlife Service): There are no wild, breeding populations of cougars occurring in the Eastern 21 states other than Florida, where the subspecies was once believed to exist.

INSKEEP: That's Mark McCullough, an endangered species biologist at the Fish and Wildlife Service. Eastern Cougars, also known as mountain lions, pumas, wildcats, panthers and ghost cats, once roamed from Eastern Canada to South America. But McCullough says the last one in the wild probably died in the 1930's, though there are still plenty of reported sightings.

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: We receive many dozens, if not hundreds of these reports each year.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Most, he says, are cases of mistaken identity.

Mr. MCCULLOUGH: Black bears, even Labrador Retrievers and house cats have been mistaken for cougars.

MONTAGNE: Though sometimes what people think is a cougar really is a cougar. Biologist Mark McCullough says Western Cougars are now migrating into Eastern Cougar territory. And some biologists think, eventually, Western Cougars will spread all the way to the East Coast.

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MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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