1 short-tailed wildcats with usually tufted ears; valued for their fur [syn: lynx]
2 large American feline resembling a lion [syn: cougar, puma, mountain lion, painter, panther, Felis concolor]
EtymologyAbbreviation of catamountain, originally ‘cat o' mountain’, ‘cat of the mountain’.
The North American Cougar (Puma concolor couguar), is the Cougar subspecies once commonly found in eastern North America and still prevalent in the western half of the continent. As well as several previous subspecies of Cougar of the western United States, Puma concolor couguar encompasses the remaining populations of the Eastern Cougar, where the cat was almost universally referred to by the name Panther, the only unequivocally known of which is the critically endangered Florida Panther population. Many extinct populations, such as the Wisconsin Cougar, which died out in 1925, are also included in the subspecies.
Several populations still exist and are thriving in the western United States, but the North American Cougar was once commonly found in eastern portions of the United States and Canada. It is believed it was completely extirpated in the early 1900s. Some mainstream scientists believe that small relict populations may exist (around 50 individuals), especially in the Appalachian Mountains and eastern Canada, but this idea is far more often found in the protoscientific field of cryptozoology, and also forms a common theme in American folklore. Other theories ascribe modern sightings to a feral breeding population of former pets, possibly hybridizing with native North American Cougar remnants, or claim that cougars from the western United States have been rapidly expanding their range eastwards.
Despite a dearth of hard evidence, sightings of cougars in the eastern United States are not as uncommon as they once were. Cougars with offspring have been sighted in Maine and Vermont in the past fifteen years. There have been verified cougar tracks and kills found in some states, including New York, which has had numerous sightings in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains. While most may be former captive animals released or escaped, the possibility of a sustained breeding population either incumbent or from migration is not out of the question.
Genetic analysis of DNA from a Cougar sighting in Wisconsin in 2008 indicated that a Cougar was in Wisconsin and that it was not captive. It is speculated that the cougar migrated from a native population in the Black Hills of South Dakota; however, the genetic analysis could not affirm that hypothesis. It is also uncertain whether there are other, perhaps breeding, cougars. However, a second sighting was reported and tracks were documented in a nearby Wisconsin community. Unfortunately, a genetic analysis could not be done and a determination could not be made. . This cougar later made its way south into the northern Chicago suburb of Wilmette. On April 14, 2008, a cougar triggered a flurry of reports before being cornered and killed in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village while officers tried to contain it. The cougar was the first sighted in the city limits of Chicago since the city was founded in 1833.
- Wright, Bruce S. The Eastern Panther: A Question of Survival. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1972.
- Eastern Cougar Foundation
- National Heritage Information Centre: General Element Report: Felis concolor couguar
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Eastern Cougar Fact Sheet
- Puma concolor couguar: Eastern Cougar
- The Cougar Network
- The Eastern Cougar
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Metroland article Cougars, Coyotes, and Bears, Oh My
- Adirondack Explorer article Cougars Coming Our Way
- Hills Mountain Lion May Have Migrated To Wisconsin
catamount in Italian: Puma concolor cougar