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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

While the Fish and Wildlife Service is once again having independent biologists review whether the so-called Eastern Cougar should be removed from Endangered Species Protection(as there is no breeding population to be found east of the Mississippi(save Florida), it is the opinion of so many biologists that a Puma is a Puma is a Puma regardless of what section of North America they are found in.............That said, such a universal recognition of the "one Puma" paradigm would potentially remove the 100 Pumas in Florida from federal endangered status,................Let us hope that Florida Wildlife Officials continue to enforce the highest protection rules for their trophic feline


Eastern puma questions

 put Florida panther in peril

The Eastern puma, which hasn't roamed the Northeast
 in nearly 80 years, is finally poised to be removed
 from the endangered species list.
The big cat is extinct, right?
Not so fast. What if the cougar -- the inspiration for
 Penn State's Nittany Lion and countless other
mascots -- didn't exist in the first place?
That's what some scientists enlisted by the Fish
and Wildlife Service to review the delisting proposal
for the Eastern puma are suggesting.
They argue that for thousands of years, only one
species of cougar roamed North America. All the
pumas, mountain lions, panthers and ghost cats
 that called the Eastern Seaboard home until the
 early 1900s were all just different names for a
 now-vanished population of Puma concolor.

Puma wandering the Florida Everglades

While these reviewers' comments will be focused on the
 science underpinning the proposal, Endangered
Species Act experts worry their feedback could also
 have serious implications for the endangered Florida
 panther -- another cat that has been long, and perhaps
 incorrectly, considered a cougar subspecies.
"In terms of the scientific literature, there never really
was an Eastern cougar," said John Laundré, an adjunct
member of the State University of New York, Oswego's
 biological sciences faculty. "Unfortunately, we're still
 stuck with these archaic divisions of the cougar genome.
 We talk about the Florida panther as something that's
unique, and it really genetically isn't."
Laundré is one of six big-cat researchers who was
contacted by the agency in late June to comply with
 a peer review policy that FWS and the National
Marine Fisheries Service, which jointly implement
 the Endangered Species Act, instituted in 1994.
That policy requires FWS to solicit "expert opinions
 of three appropriate and independent specialists
regarding pertinent scientific or commercial data
and assumptions relating to the taxonomy,
population models, and supportive biological
and ecological information" before finalizing a
 listing decision.

FWS initially failed to do that with the Eastern
 puma, which it first moved to delist over a year
 ago due to extinction. The last confirmed
 sighting of one of the 8-foot-long, 140-pound
cats occurred in Maine in 1938 (Greenwire,
June 16, 2015).
As a result of the administrative error, the agency
 last week was forced toreopen the comment
 period on its Eastern puma proposal.
Now Laundré and other reviewers are questioning
 the scientific basis that underpinned the
 endangered status of the Eastern puma and,
 by extension, the Florida panther.
"I think there's a taxonomic issue here because
 Eastern cougars are considered a subspecies
of cougar," said Michelle LaRue, a research
ecologist at the University of Minnesota and
the executive director of the nonprofit Cougar
 Network. "My understanding is that the
Eastern cougar and the Western cougars,
that exist now, are not different species."

Two of the other reviewers interviewed by
 Greenwire also said FWS needs to address
 whether cougars in the eastern United States
 were a separate population of a cat that is still
relatively common in the West or a separate
 extinct subspecies.
The scientists' feedback on the delisting proposal
is due to FWS by July 28, when the new comment
 period is set to end.


Even if FWS concludes there never was a subspecies
 in the East, ESA experts don't expect such
 concerns to prevent the agency from delisting the
Eastern puma.
Instead of removing it due to extinction, the agency

 could do so citing a listing error, said Ya-Wei Li, the
 senior director of endangered species conservation
 at the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife.

A Puma taking a daytime snooze in the Everglades

That potential taxonomic mistake could be due to the
 fact that the Eastern puma was added to the
endangered species list in 1973, prior to the enactment
 of the ESA.
"Back then, the listing standards were very, very different
 from what they are today," he said. "They were
 practically equivalent to writing it on the back of a
napkin and submitting it, versus what you see today
and the level of scrutiny."
With that in mind, Li said, "it actually doesn't surprise
 me that -- especially at the subspecies level -- that a
 critter basically slipped in."
The bigger concern for conservationists is how such
 feedback from reviewers could affect the Florida
 panther, which FWS has considered endangered
 since 1967.
Scientists' comments on the nonexistence of an
Eastern puma subspecies could "trigger some
 type of a review" of the Florida panther's status
under the ESA, Li said, and "possibly" imperil the
 ferocious feline's federal protections.
If FWS concludes that Florida panthers are no different
 from the cougars found in the West, the 100 to 180
 cats left in the Sunshine State could be removed
from the endangered species list.
Delisting would put the remaining cougars in Florida
 at further risk from development and the deadly
automobile traffic that accompanies it. Last year,
 a record 41 big cats were killed -- mainly from car
collisions (
Greenwire, Jan. 4).
Even with federal protections, Florida panthers
 are struggling to survive. The wide-ranging
species now lives in about 1.4 million acres,
 which is just 5 percent of its historical range.
Removing those cats from the endangered
species list is "quite a bit down the road,
probably," Li said. "And I suspect that
organizations like Defenders would very,
 very closely evaluate any attempt to delist
 the Florida panther."
FWS declined to respond to conservationists'
concerns about the potential implications of
 the Eastern puma delisting on the Florida panther.
"We won't address speculation (informed or
otherwise) at this time," spokesman Gavin Shire
said in an email. "We'll look at the comments
provided by the peer reviewers once they have
been submitted and the comment period closed.
Then decide how to proceed according to the
 science and our policies."

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