Carolina Panthers (Felis concolor couguar), also known as Catamounts, Pumas, Painters, and Eastern Cougars, have just been declared extinct by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
According to their official press release, “no states or provinces provided evidence of the existence of an eastern cougar population, nor did analysis of hundreds of reports from the public suggest otherwise. While many suspected cougar sightings are probably mistakenly identified bobcats or other animals, cougars do occasionally occur in eastern North America, but they are cougars of other subspecies: either Florida panthers, animals dispersing from western populations, or animals that have been released or escaped from captivity.”
The Carolina Panther once ruled the Eastern coast of North America, primarily along the Appalachian Mountain range from northern Vermont all the way down to Georgia.
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, there were originally 11 subspecies of cougars in North America, “but only two of them— the Eastern cougar and Florida cougar—were found east of the Mississippi River. Today, only a handful of Florida cougars still survive in southern Florida…”
Carolina Panthers were once so common here that many of our mountain ridges, creeks, swamps, and roads were named for the native panthers, painters, or catamounts.
Early records of North Carolina mammals show that the panther’s population declined throughout the 18th century due to persecution, hunting, poisoning, trapping, loss of habitat and the parallel decline of its major food source – the white-tailed deer. It is thought that by 1900, the Eastern cougar was extirpated throughout North Carolina.
The last documented sighting of a Carolina Panther was one that was killed in Maine in 1938.