New Brunswick

Eastern cougar may never have existed: biologist

The infamous eastern cougar has been declared extinct by U.S. wildlife officials but a New Brunswick biologist says it's unlikely the species ever existed

The mysterious eastern cougar has been declared extinct by U.S. wildlife officials but a New Brunswick biologist says it's unlikely the species ever existed.

Sightings of the cougar — and the eastern cougar, in particular — have been filtering into the New Brunswick Museum for decades.

Don McAlpine, the research curator of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, said he doesn't think there ever was a species of an eastern cougar.

And any cougars that are in New Brunswick weren't part of a  substantial population in the province.

"There is no good evidence to support the presence of the cougar here in New Brunswick," McAlpine said.

"The assumption is that these animals were once captive or the offspring of once captive animals."

Although McAlpine said he believes there never was an eastern cougar, U.S. wildlife officials have just declared that cat to be an extinct species.

He said there have been two positive identifications of cougars in New Brunswick forests, most recently from Fundy National Park in 2004. The evidence was based on DNA.

"Yes, there are cougar in New Brunswick. They're not native, and there probably wasn't the native population of cougar here," McAlpine said.

"And certainly, there isn't a self-sustaining population of cougar in New Brunswick now."

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