Eastern cougars that once prowled North America from Michigan to South Carolina were officially declared extinct and removed from the U.S. endangered species list on Monday, eight decades after the last confirmed sighting of the wild feline predator.
The large cats, also known as mountain lions, pumas or panthers, historically roamed every state east of the Mississippi River but by 1900 had all but vanished due to systematic hunting and trapping, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency opened an extensive review in 2011 into the status of the eastern cougar, a genetic cousin of the mountain lions that still inhabit much of the Western United States and of a small, imperiled population of Florida panthers found only in the Everglades.
The large cats, also known as mountain lions, pumas or panthers, historically roamed every state east of the Mississippi River (stock)
In 2015, federal wildlife biologists concluded that pumas elsewhere in the Eastern United States were beyond recovery, and thus no longer warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act.