Felis concolor: from endangered to extinct

The panther
John James Audubon: Felis Concolor -- Linn: The Cougar. -- Panther

“It is clear why the panther, or ‘painter’ as he was sometimes called, attracted so much unfavorable attention. The Moravians, in recording the wildlife around them in the Piedmont in 1764, described the panther as being ‘the color of a Deer, and is of about the same size, not counting feet. It has large claws, with which it climbs trees, and head like a cat. It is a cruel beast, eating only fresh meat, will not eat carrion, nor what has been dead only a short time. But they are not numerous, and so soon as one is seen it is killed.’ This was, indeed, a strange animal in the eyes of Europeans. From his home at Brunswick in the early spring of 1767, Governor William Tryon wrote the Earl of Shelburne:”

‘As the Panther of this continent I am told has never been imported into Europe, and as it is the King of the American forests, I presume to send a male panther under your Lordships patronage to be presented for his Majesty’s acceptance. He is six months old; I have had him four months, by constantly handling he is become perfectly tame and familiar: When full grown his coat will much resemble that of the lioness. Panthers have been killed (for it is very uncommon to catch them alive) ten feet in length from the nose to the end of the tail. I am very solicitous for his safe arrival, as I am ambitious that he may be permitted to add to his Majesty’s collection of wild beasts.’

“Tryon’s gift from the forests of North Carolina was accepted and became a part of King George’s menagerie at Kew.”

-From William S. Powell’s “Creatures of Carolina from Roanoke Island to Purgatory Mountain,” North Carolina Historical Review, April 1973. Although North Carolina wildlife officials have long considered the panther, a.k.a. the Eastern Cougar or Felis Concolor, extinct in our state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not declare the animal extinct from the eastern United States until yesterday. FWS officials say those who report sightings are likely seeing bears, dogs, the Florida panther, or, perhaps, the Western cougar, which is headed this way.

2 thoughts on “Felis concolor: from endangered to extinct”

  1. Lots of entertaining anecdotes in this piece on cougars, real and imagined, from the Western North Carolina Nature Wildlife Center:


    And what a handsome passage this is:
    “The legend persists because we want it to persist. We want the mountains to be wild. We want wolves to howl at night. We want cougars to stalk deer. We want elk to pass silently along streams, larger than a dream, larger than life.”

  2. love this post! I was named after a felis concolor! My mother saw an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man a few weeks before I wad born in which Lee Majors wad chasing a cougar named “Taneha.” My mother liked the name but misrememberd the spelling. 🙂

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