Hello Kitty

Dave Killion — March 6, 2011

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the Eastern Cougar extinct.

Maybe. Or maybe not. Apparently, it can be difficult to tell. Reports say many experts doubt the Eastern Cougar is (was?) even a separate subspecies, and also say that if the subspecies is extinct, it might have been that way since the 1930s. What is the difference between an Eastern and a Western Cougar? All I can find is that the Eastern Cougar may have (have had?) a tawny coat and a longer tail. In any case, at the risk of sounding cavalier, under the circumstances I am finding it hard to get bent out of shape over this. The only thing that is clear to me is that there used to be a lot more cougars back east than there are now.

While the loss is being attributed to overpopulation, loss of habitat, global warming and species exploitation, no one seems to have noticed that this is a failure of government stewardship. Our collective ownership of cougars is held in trust by the state, personified by elected officials and their appointed bureaucrats who suffer no personal loss as a result of this event. Given this lack of incentive, it is to be expected that wildlife will suffer. Worse still, this perfectly predictable outcome could have been prevented by turning the cougars over to private ownership. If entrepreneurs had been able to profit by licensing hunts, they would have invested in breeding programs to insure healthy populations, and invested in easements that would have protected habitat. But instead, cougars were removed from the vagaries of the market by people who forgot about the vagaries of government. The results speak for themselves.

Photo credit

Comments

Denise Moll says

Being a resident of an Eastern State, I would like to comment. The local Dept. of Natural Resources will tell you unequivocally that there are no cougars in the mountains of western Maryland. They do not exist. The local residents tell a different story. I have a friend who had a horse attacked by something that left deep gouges on its neck. The same day, a mile away, another friend had a new born calf slaughtered in the field. DNR claimed that it was a black bear attack….REALLY???? Many people have claimed to have seen a black cougar with cubs. There are people who have seen prints; taken photos, seen some tawny cats, etc. Are they Eastern Cougars? Are they even real? Apparently not. Cougar sightings here are placed in the same filing category as Big Foot!!!

— March 7, 2011

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