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Eastern Cougar, MUST READ March!!

 
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 11:30 pm    Post subject: Eastern Cougar, MUST READ March!! Reply with quote

Eastern Cougar

North American mountain lion. Credit: USFWS
The eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar) once roamed the eastern United States from Maine to South Carolina and west from Michigan to Tennessee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has for years presumed the eastern couger was extinct, having no verifiable evidence, such as DNA, to the contrary. Although many people have seen cougars in the East, and some have taken photographs, the animals sighted may not be the subspecies known as the eastern cougar. The Service placed the eastern cougar on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1973 and published a recovery plan in 1982.

Now, the Service is beginning a review of new scientific and commercial information to determine the status of the subspecies. The Endangered Species Act requires a review every five years of all species on the list. However, limited resources and higher priorities have postponed our five-year review for the eastern cougar until now.


Ghost cat. Catamount. Puma. Painter. Panther. Mountain lion. Cougar. The many names given the nation's largest cat convey the mystery surrounding this solitary hunter. But the variety of names also demonstrates the cougar's original distribution across the North American continent and from southern Canada to the tip of South America.

Once the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, cougars have been eliminated in most of their native habitat. Only western cougars still live in large enough numbers to maintain breeding populations, and they live on wild lands in the western United States and Canada. Observations of western cougars provide biologists with information for the cats that once lived east of the Mississippi.

Although generally presumed extinct in the wild, eastern cougars remain protected by the Endangered Species Act. Eastern cougars historically ranged from Michigan, southern Ontario, eastern Canada and Maine south to South Carolina and west across Tennessee. At one time, they lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats including coastal marshes, mountains and forests.

The cougar's Latin name gives a clue to its appearance; “concolor” means with one color, and adult cougars' fur is a uniform red-brown or gray-brown. Cougars have long, slender bodies with very long tails and broad, round heads with erect, rounded ears. Adult cats average from 6 feet (females) to 8 feet (males) long, including their tail. Males, at around 140 pounds, are larger than females at about 105 pounds. Cougars can swim, climb trees, and leap horizontally and vertically equally well. Eastern cougars' primary prey was white-tailed deer, but they also hunted eastern elk (now extinct) and porcupines and other smaller mammals.


Credit: Robert Savannah
Cougars usually do not chase down their prey, but stalk and ambush; a cougar may leap as far as 20 feet onto a deer's back and can kill an animal with one bite to the neck. One cougar consumes a deer every week to 10 days, or more frequently if a female is feeding cubs. Cougars have no natural enemies, only humans.

Cougars are mostly lone animals, except for mothers raising cubs and the time a pair spends together while mating. Males may occupy a range of more than 25 square miles and females between 5 and 20 square miles. Both females and males defend home territories. Cougars begin breeding at two or three years old and breed once every two or three years. Females initiate courtship and produce a litter of two to three kittens after a three month gestation. The kittens reach 10 pounds at eight weeks, and may weigh 30 to 45 pounds at six months. Females spend 18 to 24 months raising cubs to maturity. Cougars live an average of eight years.

Early settlers perceived the cougar as a danger to livestock and humans and as a competitor for wild game. With bounties set by states, eastern cougars were hunted and trapped relentlessly until they were extirpated throughout most of their range. Cougars were gone from much of the East by the late 1800s. At the same time, much of their habitat was eliminated through deforestation, which, along with hunting, also reduced the population and range of white-tailed deer. Although the forests and the deer have returned in the East in recent decades, conflicting land uses, fragmented habitat, roads, diseases and parasites from domestic animals, and expanding human populations will likely prevent cougars from returning to most of their former range. Habitat able to support small populations may still occur in some of the larger undeveloped tracts of forest in the East.



Eastern Cougar News Release
Eastern cougar comments sought
Endangered Species Act Protection
Initiation of Five-Year Review (Federal Register Notice)
Recovery Plan
More Information
Fact Sheet
Species Account
Species Profile
Florida Panther Information (South Florida Ecological Services Office, Vero Beach)
Links to Non-Fish and Wildlife Service Sites
Cooper's Rock Mountain Lion Sanctuary
The Cougar Fund
Cougar Network
Eastern Cougar Fact Sheet (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)
Eastern Cougar Foundation
Florida Panther Net
NatureServe (search for "eastern cougar")
Ontario Puma Foundation

Credit: Robert Savannah
In our search for the best scientific and commercial data and new information about the Eastern cougar, we will consider information about species biology, habitat, conservation measures, threats to the species, and other new information or data. Evidence of cougars needs to be documented using the methodology of Cougar Network If you have such information, please submit it to EasternCougar@fws.gov.

Although you may not have scientific evidence to submit, you may have a cougar story that you wish to share. If so, we invite you to send a message to us at CougarStories@fws.gov. Your message will be posted in the space below.

Messages will be screened for appropriate language and content for posting on a government Web site accessible to public viewers.














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