TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials have declared the Eastern puma extinct, 80 years after the last confirmed sighting.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week it’s removing the animal from the endangered species list.
The move completes a process that began in 2015, when the agency proposed dropping federal protections for the Eastern puma, which is also known as the cougar, mountain lion and catamount. Its territory ranged from Michigan to New England, the Carolinas and Tennessee.
The agency says pumas have turned up in some Eastern states in recent years. But genetic and forensic testing shows they had been released or escaped from captivity, or had wandered in from the West.
Officials say they considered feedback from scientists and the general public before making their decision.
The Florida panther is the only breeding puma or cougar population east of the Mississippi River.