Groups Urge USFWS to Protect Cougars Nationwide
Wyoming Untrapped was proud to be one of 73 organizations and 2,730 individuals to sign a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep protections for eastern populations of mountain lions instead of declaring them extinct. Keeping protections in place will allow for the safety of individual cats as they expand their range eastward.
“The main point made by cougar advocates is that cougars need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) across the entire range from which they were exterminated. Recolonization has been attempted by cougars dispersing from prairie states into the Midwest for a generation, with rare evidence of the cats roaming as far afield as the Michigan Upper Peninsula, Kentucky and even Connecticut.”
Currently, the puma species native to the western hemisphere taxonomically is named Puma concolor (also known as cougar, mountain lion, and panther). Listed as an endangered species in 1973, Puma concolor couguar, the eastern cougar, was just one of 32 subspecies described in 1946. However, genetic research in the 1990s determined there were just six subspecies, including the one that is widely distributed across North America, Puma concolor cougar.
The 2011 USFWS review acknowledges that the 1946 taxonomy of the eastern cougar is flawed. Modern research cannot distinguish between the thousands of cougars living throughout the western U.S. and the rare historic specimens tested east of the Mississippi River. Cougar biologists now generally agree there is a single North American subspecies.
“This is a simple case of a broadly-dispersed North American subspecies moving to recover its historic range east of the prairie states,” said Lynn Cullens of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “The big cats face no fewer threats than when they were originally listed. Federal action should include, not remove, protections for animals seeking territory within the former range.”
Full Press Release here.
Photo courtesy Bruce Tuten and the Mountain Lion Foundation.