Eastern cougar, not seen since 1938, could be declared extinct

Canadian author Bruce Wright poses with what's believed to be the last eastern cougar.

Story highlights

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Eastern cougar likely extinct for over 75 years
  • Eastern cougar placed on federal endangered species list of 1973 though last sighting was decades earlier

(CNN)The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the eastern cougar from its endangered species list.

The reason? The animal has likely been extinct for more than 75 years.
The service wrapped up its formal review of the eastern cougar in 2011. It found no evidence of a living eastern cougar in 21 states and eastern Canadian provinces. No states or provinces showed evidence of an active eastern cougar population.
    The last record of a living eastern cougar was in the isolated wilds of Somerset County, Maine, in 1938.
    The eastern cougar was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1973. By law, extinct animals are not protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is intended to save animals and plants that still have a recorded population.
    In addition, the eastern cougar listing cannot be used to protect similar animals, such as the Florida panther, which has been on the endangered species list for almost 50 years.
      The proposal to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list is now available for public inspection. The public can review and comment on the proposal online through August 17.
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists more than 1,200 animals and plants in the United States as being endangered, including the polar bear and 61 species of insects. More than 350 additional U.S. species are considered threatened.