The CBC – and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – are confirming what scientists have suspected for a long time… that the Eastern cougar subspecies can be taken off the endangered list because they’re all gone:
The last records of Eastern cougars are believed to be in Maine in 1938 and in New Brunswick in 1932.
Biologists say numerous reported sightings in recent years are compelling and have helped sustain the animal’s mystery, but they have yet to find any scientific proof that it exists.
Bob Bancroft, a Nova Scotia-based wildlife biologist, says it may be the time to ditch the idea of the Eastern cougar as a subspecies.
“Basically, the animals that are here now may not have been that subspecies — that they’re moving from the West into Eastern Ontario and Quebec,” said Bancroft, speaking with CBC’s Maritime Noon.
Bancroft said one theory is that the Eastern cougars used to be people’s pets and the ones seen in the region may have escaped their masters. He acknowledged it may be difficult to imagine cougars as pets, but he said there is evidence from the United States and Canada to suggest it may have happened.
Bancroft says based on the number of sightings, the myth of the Eastern cougar may live on and its subspecies can be reinterpreted. He says if the Eastern cougar has died off, then the cougars that people have seen must be a new breed.
“That there’s a reality that people are seeing them makes me think there’s a breeding population,” he said.
So, there might be some kind of cougar out there… but it’s something different.