A study to see if eastern cougars exist in 21 states, including South Carolina, has confirmed a long-held belief: the native cats are extinct in this part of the country.
That doesnt mean people havent seen cougars, but any that have been spotted are either escaped pets or, possibly, western cougars that somehow wound up in the eastern U.S., according to a new report by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Fish and Wildlife Services findings rankled cougar enthusiasts across the East.
But service officials say the four-year review was thorough. Officials collected nearly 600 responses to requests for scientific information and sought information from state wildlife agencies for the review. None of the evidence showed that the native cougar still survives, the service said.
We have high confidence that the eastern cougar is extinct, said Martin Miller, the Fish and Wildlife Services endangered species chief for the northeastern U.S.