Why Are Eastern Cougars Endangered?

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The eastern cougar is an extinct subspecies of the cougar.
The eastern cougar is an extinct subspecies of the cougar. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The cougar has several subspecies, one of which was the eastern cougar. The eastern cougar at one time lived over the entire United States and Canada. Eastern cougars lived in any wooded area and had no natural predator. The wild cat was remarkably light on the feet and would bring down large prey quickly and with ease. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed the eastern cougar on the endangered species list in 1973.

Deforestation

Human expansion by building homes, shopping malls, roads and deforestation of the eastern cougar's natural habitat is one more reason to blame on the large cat's extinction. Building into the cougars' territory pushed the cats to the edges of the forest, down mountains and into human territory. Their food sources become scarce and in turn the cats starved. Some came too close to human territory and were shot.

Hunting

Hunting by humans is also partly to blame for extinction of the eastern cougar. Cougars have been hunted since the early 1900s for their fur, food and sport. The cougar is a "big game" cat still hunted in the western United States today. The government sets limits on the amount of cougars killed. Unfortunately, the eastern cougar and cougar are close in color. The reddish tan fur and white chest of the eastern cougar was very similar to that of the cougar's coat. The cougar's coat is bluish-tan with a reddish hue along the back. Because of the slight color difference, the eastern cougar was often mistaken for a cougar and in turn hunted and killed. Today the government has rule books and identification classes in place to prevent such killings from happening.

Life Span

The life span of the eastern cougar is approximately eight years. Female eastern cougars breed only every two to three years and only produce two to three offspring. Between the short life span and the low birth rate, the eastern cougar could not keep the population in abundance. Between the reproduction rate, hunting and human expansion, the eastern cougar simply could not keep up.

Extinction

Sadly, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced the official extinction of the eastern cougar on March 1, 2011. Fish and Wildlife believe the eastern cougar became extinct in the 1930s; however, cougar sightings were still reported. Though U.S. Fish and Game could not prove that the sightings were that of the eastern cougar, or simply a cougar, the eastern cougar remained on the endangered species list until March 2011.

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