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 as well as Western Canada, but the North American cougar was once commonly found in eastern portions of the United States. It was believed to be extirpated there 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 in eastern US
Reported sightings of cougars in the eastern United States continue today, despite their status as extirpated.
- 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 County, 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 the origin of these animals is unknown, cougar experts believe some are captive animals that have been released or escaped.
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- 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.
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- Wright, Bruce S. The Eastern Panther: A Question of Survival. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1972.