North American cougar
|North American cougar|
|Subspecies:||P. c. couguar|
|Puma concolor couguar
The North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar), is the cougar subspecies once commonly found in eastern North America and still prevalent in the western half of the continent. As well as several previous subspecies of cougar of the western United States and western Canada, Puma concolor couguar encompasses the remaining populations of the eastern cougar, where the cat was also known as the panther, the only unequivocally known of which is the critically endangered Florida panther population. Many extinct populations, such as the Wisconsin cougar, which was extirpated in 1925, are also included in the subspecies.
Several populations still exist and are thriving in the western United States, but the North American cougar was once commonly found in eastern portions of the United States and Canada. It was believed to be extirpated in the early 1900s. Cougars in Michigan were thought to have been killed off and extinct in the early 1900s. Today there is evidence to support that cougars could be on the rise in Mexico and could have a substantial population in years to come. Some mainstream scientists believe that small relict populations may exist (around 50 individuals), especially in the Appalachian Mountains and eastern Canada. Recent scientific findings in hair traps in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick have confirmed the existence of at least three cougars in New Brunswick. Some theories postulate that modern sightings and scientific data (hair samples) are from a feral breeding population of former pets, possibly hybridizing with native North American cougar remnants, or claim that cougars from the western United States have been rapidly expanding their range eastwards. The Ontario Puma Foundation estimates that there are currently 850 cougars in Ontario.
Sightings of cougars in the eastern United States continue today, despite their status as extirpated. Cougars with offspring have been sighted in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Michigan in the past fifteen years. There have been verified cougar tracks and kills found in some states, including New York and Michigan. New York has had numerous sightings in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, while Michigan has had numerous sightings across the state in the Upper Peninsula and now more commonly in the lower part of Michigan. Connecticut and Massachusetts have less sighting, and most are in Western Massachusetts and Northwestern Connecticut, but more evidence is present, including the CT Cougar (a cougar killed in a highway in Connecticut in 2011) and DNA tests of scat in Central Massachusetts in the Quabbin Reservoir in 1997. Virginia has also had many sightings throughout the state. Most recently, New Jersey has seen its share of sightings, with eyewitness accounts dating back to 2007 that continue to increase each year. This may mean they are thriving in Ohio, Pennsylvania (since Michigan and New York have had their evident sightings), and west of New Jersey, in which the life-abundant Appalachian Mountains could support a number of cougars before crossing the Delaware River.
- Genetic analysis of DNA from a cougar sighting in Wisconsin in 2008 indicated that a cougar was in Wisconsin and that it was not captive. It is speculated that the cougar migrated from a native population in the Black Hills of South Dakota; however, the genetic analysis could not affirm that hypothesis. It is also uncertain whether there are other, perhaps breeding, cougars. A second sighting was reported and tracks were documented in a nearby Wisconsin community. Unfortunately, a genetic analysis could not be done and a determination could not be made. This cougar later made its way south into the northern Chicago suburb of Wilmette.
- On June 3, 2013, a verified sighting was made in Florence Count, Wisconsin. The cougar was photographed by an automatic trail camera, and confirmed by DNR biologists in October, 2013.
- On April 14, 2008, a cougar triggered a flurry of reports before being cornered and killed in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village while officers tried to contain it. The cougar was the first sighted in the city limits of Chicago since the city was founded in 1833.
- On November 22, 2013, a cougar was found on a farm near Morrison, Illinois in Whiteside County, Illinois. An Illinois Department of Natural Resource officer subsequently shot and killed the cougar after determining it posed a risk to the public.
While most may be former captive animals released or escaped, the possibility of a sustained breeding population either incumbent or from migration is not out of the question.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 544–545. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Cat Specialist Group (1996). Puma concolor ssp. couguar. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 2007-02-07. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this subspecies is critically endangered and the criteria used
- "Michigan Citizens Cougar Recognition". MCCR. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Hills Mountain Lion May Have Migrated To Wisconsin". CougarNetwork. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- "Cougars in Wisconsin". Retrieved 2013-11-22.
- Manier, Jeremy; Shah, Tina (15 April 2008). "Cops kill cougar on North Side". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-15.
- Times Staff (22 November 2013). "Cougar shot in Whiteside County". Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Mountain lion killed in Conn. had walked from S. Dakota. Content.usatoday.com (2011-07-26). Retrieved on 2012-12-29.
- "Northeast Corfirmation Reports". CougarNetwork. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
- Wright, Bruce S. The Eastern Panther: A Question of Survival. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1972.
- Eastern Cougar Foundation
- National Heritage Information Centre: General Element Report: Felis concolor couguar
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Eastern Cougar Fact Sheet
- Puma concolor couguar: Eastern Cougar
- The Cougar Network
- The Eastern Cougar
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Metroland article Cougars, Coyotes, and Bears, Oh My
- Adirondack Explorer article Cougars Coming Our Way
- Hills Mountain Lion May Have Migrated To Wisconsin
- Michigan DNR Cougar Page
- Cougars at Michigan Wildlife Conservancy