Eastern cougar: The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar to be extinct, saying occasional sightings were not the extinct ghost cat.
State Museum of Pennsylvania/AP/File
The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar to be officially extinct, Wednesday.
The cougar is also known to many as the catamount, ghost cat, mountain cat, mountain lion, panther, or puma. The eastern cougar has been thought by many to differ from its western counterpart in its tawny color and longer tail.
The 100-pound cat was hunted feverishly between the 1700s and 1800s, but could still be seen until the 1930s. By then the population had been so decimated in the 21 eastern states in which it lived, that no further sightings were recorded.
It has now been more than 70 years since the last confirmed sighting and though the cat had been put on the endangered species list in 1973, the US Fish and Wildlife Service held off on declaring it extinct until now.
One reason for the delay has been the 108 claimed sightings of eastern cougars between 1900 and 2010. None of the sightings in the past 70 years have been proven to be eastern cougars, and many have turned out to be western cougars or black panthers. The latter, not known to be indigenous to North America, are believed to be exotic house pets that had been let loose.
Large cats that have been reported have often been described to have the yellowish or gray color of western cougars. The western cougar, which typically resides in Florida and the West, may even be making its way eastward as territory has opened up.