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Eastern cougar

Eastern cougar (Felis concolor cougar) is an eastern subspecies of the cougar. It was listed on the endangered species list on June 4, 1973. Eastern cougars.

Eastern cougar

Eastern cougar

This large, long-tailed cat may measure up to 7.5 ft (2.3 m) in total length and 150 lb. (67.5 kg) at adulthood. Fur is light yellowish to tawny brown, with dull white underparts. The sides of the muzzle, the backs of the ears, and the tip of the tail are dark brown to black. Paw prints are up to 4 inches (10 cm); the claws are retractable and therefore are usually not seen in paw prints. Cubs are light brown with irregular brownish to black spots and a ringed tail.

Cougars have been reported in a wide variety of habitats ranging from sea level to 13,000 feet, and from desert to tropical rain forests. In the Rockies, cougars are associated with areas of pinion pine, juniper, mountain mahogany, ponderosa pine, oak and other brush lands. Young may be born in caves, under uprooted trees, or in dense thickets.

When crossing a plain or valley, cougars usually follow a watercourse because of concealment provided by vegetation along the banks. P. concolor requires abundant deer-sized prey and some isolation from humans. It has been estimated that an area of 370-820 square miles would be needed for a population of 15-20 adult cougars to have a low risk of extinction.

Eastern cougar

Eastern cougar

Roads and human activity degrade cougar habitat and are detrimental to viability. In Arizona and Utah, home ranges of established resident cougars and young cougars that became residents had lower-than-average road densities, no recent timber sales, and few or no sites of human residence; all disturbances had potential adverse impacts, especially on dispersing juveniles.

It would be expected that eastern cougars would occupy a similar range of diverse habitats, occurring wherever deer are abundant and people are not.

Life Cycle: Cougars reach sexual maturity when 2½ years old. Breeding may occur throughout the year, but peak litter production occurs in the summer months. Several males may be attracted to a mature female and may accompany her until she is receptive to mating. If the males meet, they may engage in aggressive behavior and fighting.

Gestation lasts approximately three months and litters of 1-6 kittens are produced, with 2-3 kittens being common. Den sites are simple and include cavities in rock outcrops, dense thickets, or under logs in less mountainous terrain. Weaning occurs at 2-3 months of age, and the young remain with the mother until they are almost two years old.

Late in their second winter, the young disperse to establish individual home ranges. Because of this prolonged period of parental care, female cougars usually breed only once every 2-3 years, although in some populations, litters can be produced every year.

Eastern cougar

Eastern cougar

Cougars are primarily solitary, establishing individual home ranges of up to 25 square miles. In eastern North America, white-tailed deer are the primary prey, although smaller birds and mammals such as snowshoe hare and porcupines may be taken.

Threats: Destruction of habitat by residential, commercial, and recreational development. Intentional eradication of species by hunting, poisoning, and trapping may have extirpated species from state. Severe reduction of whitetailed deer herds would also have adversely affected this species.

Management :Accounts of cougars are common in historic literature from Maine. However, the last documented eastern cougar was killed in 1938 in northern Maine. Numerous sightings have been reported in Maine and New Brunswick in recent years. However, many of these are likely domestic cats, dogs, bobcats, lynx, and fishers that were mistaken for cougars. Tracks, scat, and hair samples, believed to have come from cougars, recently have been observed or collected in Maine and New Brunswick.

Eastern cougar cubs

Eastern cougar cubs

Some MDIFW biologists and wardens also believe they have seen cougars. If cougars exist in the wild, it is possible that these animals are escaped pets, particularly in urban or coastal areas where suitable habitat is not available. Cougar tracks have not been encountered in state and federal winter track surveys in northern Maine for wolves and lynx. There is no evidence at this time that a breeding population exists in the state.

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