Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

The eastern cougar is extinct (maybe)

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Extinct or not? (Tex. Parks & Wildlife photo)

Leave it to the feds to confuse an already confusing situation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proclaimed the eastern cougar officially extinct. Except that it might not be. Maybe.  Probably. Perhaps.

Here in West Virginia, people see mountain lions from time to time. They’re most likely western-strain cougars kept as pets and turned out when they became unmanageable, but they’ve helped perpetuate the hope that the eastern cougar never really disappeared from the Mountain State.

The New York Times has a good piece on the feds’ announcement, and the story effectively reveals the word game Fish and Wildlife Service officials employed in order to make that announcement (and to remove the eastern cougar from the Endangered Species List). It isn’t that the last eastern cougar was killed 70 years ago, you see — it’s that biologists now wonder whether there was ever a separate eastern subspecies. If there wasn’t, then the “eastern” cougar wouldn’t be extinct because western states still have thriving populations of the same cat.

Oh, heck. Just read the Times’ story and follow the semantic gymnastics.