Wednesday, March 9, 2011
EASTERN COUGER R.I.P.
Also known as catamounts, panthers, mountain lions and pumas, the mascot of the high school that was almost in my backyard when I was growing up, and of many other New Jersey and East Coast schools has officially been declared extinct.
The authorities have concluded that it's probably been extinct since the late 1930s, although when I was a little boy a decade after that people said they still were around our area and I remember, perhaps falsely, seeing one as a boy up in the mountains of Northwest Jersey where an uncle briefly tried farming.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife authorities says that the many sightings since the 1930s were most likely of escaped captive animals or Western mountain lions that had migrated East or just very large domestic cats. But they cannot find, and have not found, any breeding populations of the cougar since 1938.
They may still exist in Northeast Canada, I think. But still. This specific subspecies that was common when my grandparents moved here from Ireland now seem to be gone forever (which also explains the explosion of deer populations in Jersey over the past several decades without this natural predator to cull their herds).
(Now the rightwingers—many of whom don't believe in evolution but nonetheless believe in social Darwinism and in "survival of the fittest" in nature—would excuse this manmade problem, which developed out of too much hunting and overdevelopment, and see it as just the natural course of events that we can't, and even shouldn't, try to do anything about. Whereas the centrist and leftist position is to recognize the harm humankind is doing to the natural world and try to rectify it. But that's another post.)