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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday declared the eastern cougar to be extinct, confirming a widely held belief among wildlife biologists that native populations of the big cat were wiped out by man a century ago.
After a lengthy review, federal officials concluded there are no breeding populations of cougars — also known as pumas, panthers, mountain lions and catamounts — in the eastern United States. Researchers believe the eastern cougar subspecies has probably been extinct since the 1930s.
Wednesday's declaration paves the way for the eastern cougar to be removed from the endangered species list, where it was placed in 1973. The agency's decision to declare the eastern cougar extinct does not affect the status of the Florida panther, another endangered wildcat.