The Guardian has more on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s official extinction verdict:
The agency said on Tuesday the four-year review, which included information from 21 states and eastern Canadian provinces and hundreds of reports of sightings dating as far back as 1900, showed cougars are seen every so often in the US east, but they are likely Florida panthers or mountain lions that have wandered from the western United States, or which have been released or escaped from captivity.
Eastern cougars were declared endangered in 1973, even though the last known records were tied to one killed by a hunter in Maine in 1938 and another in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1932.
Government wildlife managers believe the bulk of eastern cougars – which averaged from 6ft to 8ft long (1.8m to 2.4m) and weighed from 105 to 140 pounds (48kg to 63.5kg) – disappeared in the 1800s with the arrival of European immigrants who killed the predators to protect themselves and their livestock.
Their demise also was linked to the destruction of forests for wood, which pushed the cougars’ chief prey, white-tailed deer, to near extinction, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.