Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another animal gone extinct

Yesterday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, after years of reviewing claims to the contrary, declared that the eastern cougar is extinct -- and most likely has been so since 1938.

Here's an excerpt from a story on this subject, published today in

Eight feet long . . . tawny coat and lengthy tail… weighing 100 pounds . . . majestic solitary hunter… once lived from southern Canada to tip of South America.

Now officially extinct.

The eastern cougar – also known as the catamount, ghost cat, mountain cat or lion, panther and puma – was America’s largest cat and once the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What killed off the eastern cougar? All the usual suspects: overpopulation, loss of habitat, global warming, species exploitation. A Los Angeles Times writer says the black market for rare animal parts is the third largest illegal trade in the world, outranked only by weapons and drugs.

A subspecies of the puma or mountain lion, the eastern cougar leaves one puma family survivor from the eastern US barely hanging on: the Florida panther. Last month, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to save the panthers’ current range and reintroduce them to their historic range in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

That appeal followed the 2008 Florida panther recovery plan, also calling for reintroduction. So far, however, the Center reports that FWS seems to be stalling.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Coupling the eastern cougar extinction with the ongoing die-off of countless other animals, along with the ever-lengthening endangered species list, some commentators have called this period “the sixth extinction.” The “fifth extinction,” wrote Jeff Corwin in the LA Times, occurred 65 million years ago, when a meteor smashed into Earth, killing off dinosaurs and other species, and allowing the rise of mammals.

This time around, it looks like mammal on mammal.


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