U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is pulling the eastern cougar from the Endangered Species Act eight decades after its last recorded sighting, North Country Public Radio reports.
“Essentially we really are correcting something that listed a species despite its having gone extinct many, many decades ago, even before the Endangered Species Act was even enacted in 1973,” FWS official Meaghan Racey said, according to NCPR. “The last record we have of eastern cougars is actually from Maine in 1938.”
Native to New England, eastern cougars died off after their favorite prey, deer, were nearly hunted to extinction in the late 1800s. On top of the pressure of a dwindling food supply, the cats were killed by farmers and ranchers protecting livestock. Bounties were placed on the animals’ skins as people sought to push them out of settled and developed areas, The Revelator reports.
Reacting to the cougar’s state-recognized extinction, one environmental group immediately push for cougars to be reintroduced to the New England area in order to control large populations of deer.
“This somber moment should push Gov. Cuomo and other state leaders to bring back pumas to help rebalance a world out of kilter,” Center for Biological Diversity’s Michael Robinson said in a statement. “Eastern states should move quickly to reintroduce these magnificent animals, which play such a critical role in controlling deer herds.”
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